The 49ers are coming off their second win of the season, a 34-3 beatdown of the Raiders on Thursday. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s team now prepares for their second consecutive prime time matchup on Monday night against the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium. It’s the second week in a row the 49ers have faced a one-win team.
Here are five players to watch when the 49ers battle the Giants on Monday:
QB Nick Mullens
Nick Mullens, the 49ers’ former practice squad quarterback, filled in for an injured C.J. Beathard against the Raiders and made the most of his opportunity. He completed 16 of 22 passes (72%) for 262 yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers, and a quarterback rating of 151.9. With the help of some offensive genius from Shanahan, Mullens orchestrated one of the greatest debut performances ever by an NFL quarterback, earning himself the starting nod for another week. Can he repeat against a vulnerable Giants defense?
DE Dekoda Watson
Dekoda Watson returned from injured reserve Thursday against the Raiders and made an immediate impact. The 49ers’ pass rusher was placed on I.R. in September after suffering a hamstring injury during practice prior to the regular season. In his 2018 debut, Watson totaled three tackles, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and one tackle for loss against the Raiders. The 49ers racked up eight sacks and nine quarterback hits on Thursday. Watson will be a significant part of the equation if the 49ers are to repeat that success against the Giants.
RB Matt Breida
The 49ers lost backup running back Raheem Mostert for the season when he suffered a broken forearm in the third quarter against the Raiders. The special teams standout had been filling in nicely behind Matt Breida, carrying the ball seven times for 86 yards and a touchdown Thursday before the injury. The bulk of that workload will now fall on Breida and backup Alfred Morris. Breida’s been battling an ankle injury, but with a long week to recover, he should be the healthiest he’s been since the initial injury in Week 5 against the Cardinals.
WR Kendrick Bourne
Shanahan on Saturday officially ruled out veteran receiver Pierre Garçon against the Giants. Second-year undrafted free agent Kendrick Bourne is the wideout most likely to replace Garçon at the “Z” receiver spot. Bourne’s most productive game of the season came two weeks ago against the Cardinals to the tune of seven receptions for 71 yards. Garçon was sidelined that game, as well. Mullens may target Bourne often after leaning on Garçon against the Raiders, the pair accounting for five targets, three receptions, 56 yards and a touchdown.
DL Ronald Blair III
On a defensive line packed with first-round talent, 2016 fifth-round pick Ronald Blair might be the most effective as of late. Over the past four games, the former Appalachian State defensive lineman ranks 13th out of 103 edge rushers, per Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity stat. Blair’s totaled four sacks, three hits quarterback hits and five hurries in that span and has been a consistent force in the backfield and a pleasant surprise for the 49ers defensive front. He has a good chance continuing that success against the Giants’ questionable offensive line.