We haven’t talked about the San Francisco 49ers rookie class in a few weeks, so let’s discuss how the last three games have gone for the Niners first-year players. Yes, I’m cheating and including Emmanuel Moseley.
Needing Bosa more than ever
With Dee Ford set to miss the next couple of games with a hamstring strain, the 49ers will need Nick Bosa at his best more than ever. The past three games for Bosa have been relatively quiet. He hit the quarterback only twice, and hasn’t had a sack. That’d be fine for the majority of edge rushers in the NFL, but we’re not grading Bosa on an average scale because he’s not an average player. Some of the pressures that PFF has him down for have been a result of the quarterback running into him, so those numbers are inflated.
His role has been different, as Bosa has been forced to play the zone read more in the past three weeks than he has probably in the past three seasons. He’s still winning as a pass-rusher at an excellent clip. The chart below shows edge rushers in the NFL that are being double-teamed as well as their pass-rush win-rate:
As a rookie, Bosa is one of the top pass rushers in the NFL. They’ll need him to play like one in the next two weeks.
Deebo Samuel has come through in a big way the last two weeks for the 49ers offense. Down their top two targets, Samuel became the go-to target and did not disappoint. We talked about how rare it is for a rookie wideout to have back-to-back games with 100 yards. That hasn’t been done since 2014 for a reason. Rookie wide receivers usually have their highs and lows throughout the season. That’s no different for Samuel, but we see a ceiling that may have been higher than even the biggest Samuel fan thought.
What’s made Samuel’s performances so impressive is that he’s not getting his chunk of yardage on a play or two. Samuel is reliable, and he’ll need to be down the stretch for the 49ers.
Quiet on the Wishnowsky front
No news is good news for Wishnowky, but when he does punt, he’s been effective. Wishnowsky had a net of 50.5 yards on two punts against the Cardinals. If the 49ers are only punting twice a game, I like their chances moving forward. On the season, Wishnowsky has a net average of 42.1. That’s good for 11th in the NFL.
Greenlaw is good
In his second start, Dre Greenlaw looked far more comfortable than he did against Seattle. Greenlaw could always run, but his over-aggressiveness bit him in the preseason as well as against the Seahawks. That wasn’t an issue against Arizona. Greenlaw didn’t miss a tackle, and finished the game with eight tackles and two stops. He allowed six catches, but they only went for 22 yards. The way the 49ers defense is built, you can give up underneath receptions, but you have to limit the yards after the catch. Against the Seahawks, Greenlaw allowed 9.5 yards after the catch. On Sunday, he allowed 3.7. All we should be looking for is continued improvement from Greenlaw. So long as he remains a sure-tackler, that shouldn’t be an issue.
We saw this coming
Justin Skule is trending in the wrong direction. The more tape that’s available on him, the worse he’s played. Even his PFF grades have gone down every week since Week 7. This past game was far and away his worst game to date. Chandler Jones, who beats everyone, had is way with Skule, who allowed eight pressures on the day, including a sack and a quarterback hit.
Joe Staley hasn’t exactly lit it up this season, but you’d expect the veteran to be a big improvement playing in big games to close the season out for the 49ers. They need Staley back. The real issue is at the other tackle, but that’s an entirely different discussion.
E is the Man
A UDFA from 2018 whose season was cut short has started seven games this season and, if you didn’t know any better, would think Moseley was a high draft pick.
49ers CB Emmanuel Moseley has a 70% success rate this season. That's third in the NFL among CBs that have been targeted 20+ times.— KP (@KP_Show) November 19, 2019
As impressive as that number is, it still doesn’t tell the entire story. Moseley broke up a pass against Arizona, but his two most impressive plays in coverage came where he wasn’t targeted. Early in the first quarter(8:20 if you want to watch it), Moseley is matched up against Andy Isabella, who ran a 4.31 40-yard dash. On the play, Isabella runs a “stutter and go comeback,” which is three routes in one. Moseley ran the route for him. In the second quarter, the Cardinals ran a flea-flicker trying to get behind Moseley with some misdirection, and he didn’t bite.
Moseley had two-run stops, and he would have had another, but he missed the tackle. It slowed down the ball-carrier and allowed another defender to make the tackle for loss. Nobody saw Moseley playing at a Pro Bowl level coming. It speaks to Moseley’s hard work, as well as the coaching staff believing in him and developing Moseley’s talent. He’s the real deal.