Entering the 2018 season, the San Francisco 49ers, encouraged by a strong finish to the 2017 season, entertained hopes of competing for an NFC playoff birth. Surely a team that finished by winning six of their last seven games would only be improved as Jimmy Garoppolo enjoyed an expanded playbook. The team also added former-Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon to become a feature back in Kyle Shanahan’s intricate offense. There was a mounting buzz among 49ers fans that the hard times were perhaps over, and maybe Levi Stadium would actually have energy this season. Unfortunately for Niners faithful though, all plans of grandeur have been put on hold with Garoppolo and McKinnon sidelined until next season with injuries.
While the offense hasn’t been top shelf, Shanahan has been able to keep them from completely falling off a cliff behind a really strong showing by the offensive line and second-year running back Matt Breida. So far, Breida has 430 yards, and is averaging an astonishing 6.8 yards per carry.
With Garoppolo out the 49ers have had to rely on last season’s 3rd Round pick C.J. Beathard at quarterback. Beathard has been serviceable, and certainly had some moments since he took over as the starter. His main target is second-year tight end George Kittles, who leads the team with 27 receptions. Pierre Garcon is still a threat, but, hasn’t had any real big games yet this season. Speedster Marquise Goodwin has returned from hamstring and quad injuries, so the Rams secondary, especially CB2 Troy Hill, will have to show up, or the Rams could become engaged in another shootout.
Much of the 49ers angst has been due to the inconsistent showing by their defense thus far. They are currently 29th in points allowed, and 19th in yardage surrendered. Up front they are fairly stout, behind Deforrest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead, and linebackers Fred Warner and Rueben Foster. The main issue has been the backend of the defense. Aside from cornerback/former nemesis Richard Sherman, who remains one of the better corners around, the secondary has been plagued by errors and big plays. Entering this week’s game the 49ers are ranked 25th in pass defense, and the heat has been turned up under the seat of defensive coordinator, Robert Selah. Last season, Selah was able to bring some much-needed improvement against the run to the 49ers defense, but this 2018 and we can only hope that psychotherapy is included in the health care packages for DCs league-wide.