The San Francisco 49ers have gotten off to a strong start in 2019. Kyle Shanahan and Co. are one of only three teams left unbeaten along with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. The team is coming off a Week 4 bye, getting two weeks to prepare for their prime-time matchup against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. We’re taking a broader approach to the stock report this week, highlighting what’s gone right and wrong for the 49ers through the first four weeks.
Stock up: The division
The 49ers sit atop the NFC West as the only remaining undefeated team in the division. The Los Angeles Rams (3-1) lost their first game of the season on Sunday, falling 55-40 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Los Angeles. The same Bucs the 49ers topped 31-17 in Tampa Bay to start the season. The Seattle Seahawks (3-1) fell to the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, 33-27. The Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) are yet to win a game, tying the Detroit Lions 27-27 in Week 1. The NFC West might be the toughest division in all the NFL. The 49ers holding the top spot bodes well for the team’s playoff hopes in 2019, with a Week 6 matchup against the Rams looming large.
Stock down: Injuries
For the next four to five weeks, the 49ers will endure a pair of injuries at key positions. Left tackle Joe Staley suffered a fractured fibula in his left leg during the team’s Week 2 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Sixth-round rookie Justin Skule stepped in for the 13-year veteran against the Steelers and will hold down the role for what’s expected to be another four to five weeks. Starting cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon suffered a foot sprain against the Pittsburgh Steelers that will sideline him for another three to four weeks. Former undrafted cornerback Emmanuel Moseley is expected to fill in, with Jason Verrett also competing for the role.
Stock up: Coaching
Both Shanahan’s offense and Robert Saleh’s defense have risen to the occasions so far this season. Both units ranked in the Top 5 after Week 3, the offense averaging 421 yards per game, good for 4th. The defense is allowing an average of 282 yards per game, ranking 2nd behind the Patriots’ 199. The 49ers’ offense is averaging 32 points per game, ranking 5th in the NFL. The defense is allowing an average of 18 points per game, good for 9th. It’s been an impressive display so far the team as a whole, with one glaring exception...
Stock down: Turnovers
Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee put things in perspective on Tuesday. He pointed out that the 49ers lead the NFL in turning over the football, with over 22% of the offense’s possessions ending in coughing the ball up to the opposing team. The 49ers’ five-turnover performance against the Steelers heavily impacted that statistic, but it’s not a new phenomenon for Shanahan’s squad. Biderman also pointed out that the 49ers were the third-worst in giveaways for 2018. San Francisco was able to get away with turnovers against the Steelers but will need to tighten up against better teams if they want to keep the momentum rolling.
Stock up: Garoppolo
Quarterback play is a large reason the 49ers are off to a good start. Jimmy G has been impressive so far in 2019, his performance against the Steelers his strongest outing so far this season. Garoppolo didn’t light up the box score, especially with two passes bouncing off the hands of his intended targets only to be intercepted. It was gritty performance though, dodging an onslaught of pressure to make the tough plays, including the game-winning touchdown to receiver Dante Pettis. Garoppolo has completed 69% (nice) of his passes through three games for 739 yards, five touchdowns, four interceptions and a quarterback rating of 96.3.
Stock up: Talent
The 49ers have benefited from a host of both emerging talent and players that are stepping up at positions of need. The defensive front has exceeded expectations through three games. Rookie first-rounder Nick Bosa is the real deal. The No. 2 overall pick has gotten into the backfield 17 times, totaling two sacks, four quarterback hits and 11 hurries, per Pro Football Focus. Defensive lineman Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead all have two sacks apiece. On the other side of the ball, the 49ers’ rushing attack has been nearly unstoppable. Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert have accounted for 75 carries and 428 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Former practice squad back Jeff Wilson has taken on goal-line duties and has scored four times in two games.