The 49ers are starting their campaign in Detroit. Let us look at some key factors going into the game.
Workload management for Raheem Mostert.
If not for injuries, Mostert might be the best running back in the NFL. He is explosive, quick and elusive. The injury concern is the foremost reason that Mostert is not a top pick in fantasy drafts. If he stays healthy, 1000 yards rushing is a certainty. Still, there is no need for the 49ers to overuse Mostert. The running back department has abundant talent. Ten total carries in this game would be perfect for the workload of Mostert.
Let Jimmy Garoppolo build his rhythm.
The pre-season is over. Garoppolo is the starting quarterback. But he is coming back from an uneven season due to injuries and loss of form. The 49ers are a run-heavy team and should beat the Lions even if Jimmy throws less than ten times in this game. While winning the first game is the priority, the 49ers should try to use this game as a stepping stone to build Garoppolo's confidence. I would expect Shanahan to call a minimum of 25 pass plays.
Do not get distracted with Trey Lance.
Lance is the future who is worth three first round draft picks. At the moment, it should not matter to the 49ers. Lance had an opening to pressure Shanahan during the pre-season. Since Lance did not step up to the occasion, the 49ers should focus on their QB1 -- Garoppolo. For example, if it turns out to be a blowout, Shanahan should not pull out Garoppolo to give Lance snaps. The 53 man roster indicates that Garoppolo will remain in San Francisco for the entire 2021 season and maybe beyond. So he should get every chance to play during early games, which will give invaluable preparation when the schedule gets more challenging. The "developing Lance" project must take the backseat. Winning every game and making the playoffs is more significant.
Start Deommodore Lenoir.
The 49ers drafted Ambry Thomas before Lenoir. But the latter stood out during the training camp and preseason. Emmanuel Moseley's injury means that the 49ers have to start the rookie Lenoir or Josh Norman. While Norman brings the experience to the team, the 49ers can take a gamble with Lenoir. Given that the 49ers are playing against a depleted Lions offensive line and Jared Goff, this is the best situation to get Lenoir into the mix. The 49ers cornerback department is always a concern due to lack of depth. For the team which is believed to be playoff-bound, Lenoir will have to play during the season. While Norman is staying, the 49ers can use Lenoir as the starter.
Forget 2019 season
The 49ers planned a revenge tour in 2020, which went wrong. The fans believe this roster is loaded, and the NFC is wide open to take a shot at the Super Bowl. But going into Week 1, the team should overlook that.
Key players are coming back from brutal injuries, and the offseason was filled with a quarterback controversy. The weight of too many expectations can be a negative effect. The 49ers cannot repeat a similar performance like Week 1 against the Cardinals last year. So the team should go out and enjoy playing football in normal conditions after a pandemic year. Once the 49ers have this game in the bag, it will help the team calm the nerves and move forward.