5 Burning Questions For Week 2
The 49ers go on the road for the first time in 2020 with a trip to the Big Apple to take on the New York Jets. Both teams are coming off losses in Week 1 and are looking to get back on the right foot Sunday.
The 49ers will be without All-Pro tight end George Kittle, who injured his knee early in the second quarter against Arizona but continued to play, missing only a single snap. The Jets will also be without one of their top playmakers on Sunday as receiver Jamison Crowder has been ruled out.
With that as a backdrop let’s take a look at the 5 Burning Questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome on Sunday.
1. Can Jimmy Garoppolo make some plays? There’s no debating that Garoppolo struggled at times in Week 1 against Arizona by holding onto the ball too long or just being inaccurate with some key throws. The good news for the 49ers is that Garoppolo finally made it through a season opener without turning the ball over, hopefully a sign of things to come throughout 2020.
Another bit of good news for the 49ers heading into Week 2? Garoppolo has never lost in the second week of the season over the course of his career, he’s 3-0 and has a combined quarterback rating of over 117 and 8 touchdowns to only 1 interception. The 49ers are going to need Garoppolo to make a few plays on Sunday.
2. Will the wide receivers step up? There’s no getting around it, the 49ers wide receivers were not much of a factor on Sunday, managing only 4 receptions for 41 yards on 11 targets. That should have come as little surprise considering they were starting the third and fourth players on the depth chart.
Reinforcements are on the way. Rookie Brandon Aiyuk appears poised to make his NFL debut on Sunday and the team signed veteran Mohamed Sanu, although his availability for Sunday is still a question as he could not begin practicing with the team until Friday prior to departing for New York.
Sanu is basically an older version of Kendrick Bourne, a reliable receiver who isn’t going to scare the defense deep. Unfortunately for the 49ers, that makes him better than the rest of their current receiver corps while Deebo Samuel is on IR.
3. Can Akhello Witherspoon regain his swagger? With Richard Sherman being sent to IR and unavailable for the next three weeks the 49ers will look to Akhello Witherspoon to fill the void. After a solid start to 2019, Witherspoon suffered a foot injury in Week 3 against the Steelers. Once he got back into the starting lineup two months later Witherspoon did not look like the same player and was eventually benched in favor of Emmanuel Moseley.
Fortunately for Witherspoon, the Jets will be without their top wide receiver. Jamison Crowder has been ruled out for this week. With Crowder out, the Jets are left with a healthy group that managed a total of 54 yards on 10 receptions in Week 1 against Buffalo.
Another area that Witherspoon should be able to benefit from this week will be an improved pass rush. Last week, the 49ers big-three outside pass rushers, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Arik Armstead combined for a grand total of 1 hit on the quarterback. While Sam Darnold is a gifted athlete, he was named to the all-CIF basketball team in high school, he is no Kyler Murray. Throw in that Jets rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton has been limited this week and this could be a breakout game for the 49ers pass rush.
4. Can the 49ers grind the clock? The 49ers ran the ball well on Sunday, managing just over 4.9 yards per carry. This week they will take on a Jets defense that held Buffalo running backs to only 41 yards on 18 carries. With the lack of playmakers on the outside and the possibility of George Kittle not playing, this game has the makings of one that will come down to the 49ers being able to grind it out on the ground.
5. What can the 49ers expect from Frank Gore? While Gore is a 49ers legend and among the best running backs to ever play, he’s no longer the bell cow back that he once was. The last two seasons, Gore has been a role player, averaging roughly 43 yards and 10 carries per game, and hasn’t had over 11 carries in a game since week 4 of last season. This will be a good chance for 49ers fans to watch Gore one last time.
Prediction Time: 49ers 24 Jets 13