One Area of Improvement the 49ers Need to Make in Week 7 vs. Washington
With the way the San Francisco 49ers have been performing this season, it’s a bit difficult to point out areas of improvement for them. However, against the Los Angeles Rams there was one area that stood out that needs improvement.
That area is the special teams unit of the 49ers.
It all starts with kicker Robbie Gould who has been in a funk all season. Gould is supposed to one of the best kickers in the NFL, yet so far this season he is 9-of-15 on the year for field goals made. The amount of misses he has tallied up is inexcusable considering he is the second highest paid kicker.
Gould spent all offseason holding out with hopes of being traded away from the 49ers. At this point, he is basically stealing money from the team. Kyle Shanahan has excuses a couple of his misses due to poor snaps, which makes sense since they have shuffled players at long snapper.
But the guy still has to nail these kicks. It is why he is getting paid the big bucks at his position. Right now, it is a terrible look for him given the offseason he had. The 49ers need to figure out how they can get him going again so that they can depend on him when the time comes.
Kicking field goals isn’t the only part of special teams that needs improvement. Punt return has been a bit of an achilles heel for this team. There has been a couple of instances where Richie James Jr. could have fielded the ball, but opted to let it bounce and lose positive yards.
However, the main thing that needs to get cleared up is the communication. James was waving off his teammates to indicate that he wasn't going to field the ball. Unfortunately, D.J. Reed Jr. didn't receive the message and the ball grazed him enough to be ruled a fumble.
Luckily for the 49ers, the fumbles was waved off due to an illegal motion penalty on the Rams. These types of mistakes are mental errors that the 49ers cannot afford. It's turnovers like this one can swing the momentum to the other team. I know it was just one instance, but this should still be a point of emphasis.
A fumble due to being grazed should never happen. The defenders on punt return have to be aware of when Richie James Jr. is going to field it. Usually punt returners will utter a phrase as well, like yelling out "poison!" so that his teammates will know to get out of the way. It could have plain out been that Reed didn't hear James or didn't see him wave it off.
Once again, these are mistakes that need to be nipped in the bud. That way it doesn't turn into a habit or at least it'll be embedded in the players' heads to be aware of the situation. The 49ers haven't committed too many mistakes, which is another reason as to why they are reeling off wins.
However, shooting themselves in the foot is an easy way for them to lose games and allow the opposition to come back. It all starts on Sunday against the Washington Redskins in week seven. The 49ers one area of improvement is the special teams and I have no doubt that will correct these mistakes to assure themselves of a clean game.