The San Francisco 49ers (1-0) remain on the road, traveling to Pennsylvania to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Before we dive into Philadelphia, let’s look back on the players to watch from the 49ers’ Week 1 victory:
Penei Sewell, Right Left Tackle, #58 — Sewell had a late switch to left tackle and held his own. He’s going to be one of the greats.
Trey Flowers, Outside Linebacker, #90 — Flowers could not hold the edge against Raheem Mostert or Elijah Mitchell, but did almost save the Lions when he forced that fateful Deebo Samuel fumble.
Dre Greenlaw, Outside Linebacker, #57 — Greenlaw was very hot and cold. He had the pick six, but also missed his lane in run defense a few times and is out for at least four weeks with a groin injury.
Trent Sherfield, Wide Receiver, #81 — He caught Trey Lance’s first career touchdown and might have leaped 2020 first round pick Brandon Aiyuk on the depth chart.
OK, now on to Philadelphia.
Here are five players to watch in the sneaky matchup of the week:
Javon Hargrave, Defensive Tackle, #97 — Philadelphia Eagles
Led by defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the Eagles defensive line is arguably the best in the NFL.
But it doesn’t stop there. They also have edge rushers Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, and Ryan Kerrigan, as well as defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and last week’s star, Javon Hargrave.
Hargrave rudely welcomed former Michigan rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield to the NFL, earning a 92.9 grade on PFF with 2.0 sacks, three QB hits, and five tackles on 40 snaps.
Watch this breakdown of Hargrave’s efforts against Atlanta Week 1.
Hargrave won’t have the veteran advantage this week against 49ers’ left guard Laken Tomlinson and center Alex Mack, but will need to make a similar impact if the Eagles are to limit up-the-middle runs.
DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, #6 — Philadelphia Eagles
The biggest question on San Francisco’s defense is cornerback.
The 49ers were able to get past their deficiency on the outside last week, partially because Detroit might have one of the worst wide receiver groups in the NFL.
Philadelphia does not.
DeVonta Smith is one of the most exciting young wide receivers. He’s coming off a Heisman campaign with Alabama, and quickly made an impact for Philadelphia, catching six of eight targets for 71 yards and a touchdown Week 1.
Smith and 2020 first round pick Jalen Reagor picked apart a lackluster Atlanta secondary.
With Jason Verrett out for the year (ACL) and Emmanuel Moseley doubtful, it’s unclear who the 49ers will start on the outside, opposite rookie Deommodore Lenoir.
Although he’s not what he once was, veteran Josh Norman is the best choice to replace Moseley, given how zone-heavy the 49ers will be against a mobile quarterback.
Kentavius Street, Defensive Line, #95 — San Francisco 49ers
In addition to the depleted cornerback and linebacker units, the 49ers’ defensive line is a little short-handed with both Armstead and Javon Kinlaw questionable.
Fortunately, the 49ers entered the season with a very deep interior defensive line rotation.
If Kinlaw and Armstead are unable to go, expect preseason star Kentavius Street (first NFL sack last week) to step up and have a key role on defense, reading Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts on options and preventing the inside run against running back Miles Sanders.
Although it was under a different regime, and with Carson Wentz under center, Philadelphia had success with the read option toward Armstead and Dion Jordan last year.
With the expected mismatch on the outside, it’s imperative that Street and the rest of the 49ers' line handle inside runs, and keep Hurts in the pocket.
Azeez Al-Shaair, Outside Linebacker, #51 — San Francisco 49ers
Greenlaw had a hot and cold effort against Detroit, and will miss Sunday’s game.
This bumps SAM linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair into a major role.
Al-Shaair had seven tackles (two for a loss) and two pass deflections in Week 1. Both his TFLs and one pass breakup came on passes to the running back, while the final was a booming hit on tight end T.J. Hockenson to force a fourth down on the final drive.
The third-year linebacker will have three responsibilities: spying the extremely mobile Hurts, defending tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz, and plugging the right gap in run defense.
The running game looks a lot different this week.
Hurts is the first of many mobile/running quarterbacks that defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, Al-Shaair and the rest of the new-look defense will face.
Hurts extended numerous plays with his legs, rushing seven times for 62 yards and four first downs last week.
The 49ers cannot let him out of the pocket. That’s how they lost to Kyler Murray in 2021. That’s how they would lose this week.
Mike McGlinchey, Right Tackle, #69 — San Francisco 49ers
This is a revenge game for right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
Last year’s loss to Philadelphia was the ember that sparked the McGlinchey hate (29 total blown pass blocks in 2020 per SIS).
Although his PFF grade did not reflect it (51.0), McGlinchey had a nice start to the season. But the Lions are not the Eagles.
Barnett, Graham, Sweat, Kerrigan, and linebacker Genard Avery (remember this?) know how to rush the passer.
The Eagles are going to pressure Garoppolo to force mistakes. Can McGlinchey, right guard Daniel Brunskill and the rest of the offensive line handle Philadelphia’s relentless rush?
Whereas McGlinchey struggles in pass protection, he’s remained a skilled run blocker. That will come into play this week as the 49ers rotate between a surprising sixth-round rookie (Mitchell), a 2020 undrafted free agent (JaMycal Hasty), and either a rookie who was inactive vs Detroit (Trey Sermon) or someone who just joined the team (Trenton Cannon).
Mitchell, who at the moment seems like the No. 1 back, is similar to Mostert in that he’s deadly on outside runs.
McGlinchey did a solid job sealing off that edge to free up a few big gains. If McGlinchey can do that on Graham this week, it’s hard to imagine linebackers Avery, Eric Wilson, T.J. Edwards or Alex Singleton being able to keep up.
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