The San Francisco 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and it's not a stretch to say that the season is effectively over if they don't win the game. Some will already tell you that the season is up, and it's hard to disagree with them. Of course, what to do when a season is "lost" remains up for debate as well, with some suggesting tanking is the best, and others just wanting to see the team play well.
I'm in that latter category. I said before the season that I thought the 49ers would be fine this year and while they have certainly underwhelmed and surprised in all the wrong ways, I think there are still some quality wins on the table. I want those wins, I don't care about losing out or anything like that, I just want the team to look like football is a thing they're good at, and not something that they just read about once.
But you also have to wonder when it becomes time to just let the younger guys play and see what they can do, or when it becomes time to make more and more changes to see what works before the season comes to an end. I wrote about wide receiver Bruce Ellington and his lack of playing time yesterday, but there are plenty of other players I'd like to see sooner rather than later.
Running back Jarryd Hayne and cornerback Dontae Johnson are two of those players. Johnson is an interesting case because I think he's been misused more than anything. For some reason, the 49ers consistently play him in the slot where he doesn't belong, despite him playing well outside. But Johnson has been passed by both Keith Reaser and Kenneth Acker, and I wonder if the team closed the book on him too quickly.
For Hayne, the natural talent is obvious and at his age, the time to see what he can do is now. I'm not talking a couple touches, I'm talking about going with him for a couple series and making him the primary ball-carrier.
Then again, maybe it is too early for that. No, the season isn't technically lost yet and yes, the 49ers still have a lot to discover about the guys they know are starters going forward on top of that. You don't want to pull Carlos Hyde, even if you know he's the feature back of the future, because you want him to get the reps regardless.
Still, I echo the sentiments discussed by Chris Biderman of Scout.com. He lists other guys, like Andrew Tiller, Arik Armstead and some of the players I've already mentioned here as players who should probably see the field if the 49ers are indeed entering something of a rebuilding phase. No fan wants to hear that, but it's quickly approaching reality.
Are there any of those kinds of changes you guys would like to see, or is it too early to be thinking about that stuff? I'm interested to see the responses.