For the first time since their Nov. 5, 2020 defeat to Green Bay, the San Francisco 49ers (2-0) will play a regular season game at Levi’s Stadium, again taking on the Packers (1-1) on Sunday Night Football at 5:20 p.m.
Before we analyze this week’s Players to Watch, let’s look back on the Week 2 win at Philadelphia.
Javon Hargrave, Defensive Tackle, #97 — Hargrave had another great game, recording two tackles-for-loss and a QB hit.
DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, #6 — Smith was shut down by the 49ers’ secondary, catching just two of seven targets for 16 yards.
Kentavius Street, Defensive Line, #95 — Street had the third most snaps among defensive ends for San Francisco, trailing Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa, and had a TFL.
Azeez Al-Shaair, Outside Linebacker, #51 — Al-Shaair made five tackles, but according to pro football reference has already missed six on 18 attempts.
Here are five players to watch in 49ers’ SNF matchup with Green Bay:
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Wide Receiver, #83 — Green Bay Packers
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams found their groove last week. The All-Pro duo linked up for eight catches (nine targets) for 121 yards in Week 2 vs Detroit.
Similar to the Lions, the 49ers have no one who can defend Adams. In just three regular season games vs. San Francisco, he has 27 catches on 40 targets for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Although Adams should be the main focus of the defense, he isn’t Rodgers’ only deep-threat. Rodgers was targeting receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a few deep shots, but missed the speedster (zero catches on four targets).
Just like Adams, Valdes-Scantling has played quite well against San Francisco. His 54.3 receiving yards per game is his highest against any team he has played more than once.
Given veteran corner Josh Norman’s deficiencies in man coverage, and how rookie Deommodore Lenoir was burned for a 91-yarder last week, it’s unclear who offers the best option to guard Valdes-Scantling.
It is clear, however, that he will be targeted a few times on deep passes. Can the 49ers secondary keep up?
Rashan Gary, Edge Rusher, #52 — Green Bay Packers
One of the more comical/interesting matchups on Sunday will be Green Bay edge rusher Rashan Gary vs. McGlinchey.
Why? Gary is not a good run-defender but is one of the better bull rushers in the NFL, while McGlinchey is a very good run blocker, but cannot stop a bull rush.
In place of Za’Darius Smith, Gary has four QB hits in two games after recording 5.0 sacks and 11 QB hits through 15 games in 2020. McGlinchey’s run-blocking success was overshadowed by his well-documented struggles in pass protection last season.
This bad-on-good and good-on-bad combo will be a treat. If McGlinchey holds his own in pass protection, it should be a huge confidence booster.
Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle, #99 — San Francisco 49ers
In addition to a Pro-Bowl quarterback and wide receiver, Green Bay also has one of the best running backs in the NFL in Aaron Jones.
Jones is fresh off a four-touchdown performance despite only 67 yards on 17 carries.
The 49ers are already at a disadvantage on the outside. They cannot let Green Bay control the middle. Especially with left guard Elgton Jenkins (questionable/ankle) pushed to left tackle, and an extremely inexperienced interior line for Green Bay.
Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw made one of the plays of the Philadelphia game with his blocked field goal. If he can translate that penetration to defense, it would go a long way toward the 49ers controlling the line.
Trey Lance, Quarterback, #5 — San Francisco 49ers
Talk about burying the lede.
If Shanahan is truly into the two quarterback system, this is the perfect game for rookie Trey Lance to get 10+ snaps (not start).
On “The Mina Kimes Show featuring Lenny,” Kimes noted how the Packers are getting gashed outside, surrendering 9.2 YPC on outside-the-tackle runs.
Why is that? Without Smith, the Packers have no one to hold the edge.
They also have zero pass rush.
In Week 1, New Orleans YOLO king Jameis Winston rushed six times for 37 yards and had a time to throw of 2.91 seconds.
Week 2 was worse as Detroit quarterback Jared Goff rushed four times for 46 yards and had a 3.14-second time to throw.
That’s two of the least mobile quarterbacks in the NFL.
Imagine what Lance can do on runs, RPOs and bootleg passes.
Deebo Samuel, Wide Receiver, #19 — San Francisco 49ers
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is off to a great start. He entered the week first in receiving yards, thanks in most part to his tackle-breaking ability.
Pro-Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander is as lockdown as they come. When he’s lined up with Samuel, it will be tough for Jimmy Garoppolo to get him the ball. Yet Alexander has spent a lot of time in the slot (21.7% of his snaps per playerprofiler.com).
When not shadowed by Alexander, Samuel will see first-round rookie Eric Stokes, who had a nice end to the Week 2 victory, and the inconsistent Kevin King.
Like he did on his long touchdown pass against Detroit, Garoppolo should test the young corners on the outside by targeting Samuel.
Regardless of what corner stands opposite Samuel, Shanahan must get him the ball. As noted above, the Packers cannot stop the outside run. Shovel passes to Samuel should be an automatic first down.
Samuel, and whatever healthy-ish running backs suit up for San Francisco on Sunday, should have great success with outside runs.
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