The undefeated San Francisco 49ers face their toughest test of the season on Sunday when they travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams. Coming off their Monday night beatdown of the Cleveland Browns, the 49ers are on a much shorter week than the Rams, who lost their second game of the season last Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks. Sunday proves an opportunity for Kyle Shanahan and crew to make it three-straight losses for the Rams and further establish their lead over the NFC West.
Here are five players to watch in the 49ers’ Week 6 matchup:
OT Daniel Brunskill
The 49ers got the bad news on Wednesday that starting right tackle, Mike McGlinchey would miss four to six weeks while he recovers from a minor knee procedure stemming from an injury suffered against the Browns. The offense is now without both starting tackles, while veteran Joe Staley continues to recover from a Week 2 fractured fibula. Sixth-round rookie Justin Skule has filled in admirably for Staley, and now we’ll see if Brunskill can do the same. Formerly of the Alliance of American Football, Brunskill was signed by the 49ers in April to a one-year contract and impressed during training camp, earning a spot on the final 53-man roster. Both he and Skule will play a pivotal role in protecting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo against a formidable Rams defensive front.
DL Nick Bosa
Was there any way we couldn’t include Bosa? The 49ers’ No. 2 pick was the best player on the field on Monday, dominating the Browns’ offensive line and continually tormenting quarterback Baker Mayfield. Bosa authored the best pass-rush performance from a rookie since the creation of Pro Football Focus, totaling nine pressures, two sacks, three quarterback hits, four quarterback hurries, two total tackles, three stops, one forced fumble and an elite overall grade of 92.3. The Rams’ offensive line isn’t stellar. The 49ers will be counting on another strong performance from Bosa to keep Sean McVay’s offense at bay.
WR Dante Pettis
It’s our second week in a row, including Pettis. After scoring the game-winning touchdown in Week 3 against the Steelers, we were looking for the second=year wideout to take another step forward against the Browns in establishing himself as the 49ers’ leading wideout. Instead, Pettis’ highlight came on a brutal drop on what would’ve been a walk-in touchdown. Garoppolo was noticeably displeased after the play. Eyes will again be on Pettis, whether as a playmaker or liability, among a lackluster group of wideouts that are begging for someone to step up. Rams cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are more bark than bite at this point. The opportunity is there for Pettis to establish himself.
CB Richard Sherman
Everyone expected the Browns to pick on undrafted free agent cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on Monday, making his first start. Instead, it was Sherman who gave up the most receptions. The veteran seemed content in allowing both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to catch the shorter stuff, giving up sideline routes for 10-15 yards on multiple occasions. He also reeled in a leaping interception in the first quarter. On Sunday, Sherman and the rest of the secondary face off against another dangerous receiving group featuring Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks. Quarterback Jared Goff is averaging 317 yards per game, ranking second in the NFL. A vintage performance from Sherman will go a long way in getting the 49ers offense back on the field.
DB Jimmie Ward
Ward made his first start of the season on Sunday after recovering from a broken finger suffered during training camp. There was little to take away from Ward’s performance that included three total tackles and one-stop. He earned a respectable 74.0 grade from PFF against the run but struggled in coverage with a 58.2. Ward, routinely playing the role of single-high safety, should expect to be targeted more against a Rams offense that has become one-dimensional, relying on the passing game to move the ball. The 49ers coaching staff has long held Ward in high esteem despite a myriad of injuries. Sunday will be a strong opportunity for Ward to show why.