The San Francisco 49ers are preparing for their biggest game of the season so far. Kyle Shanahan’s 8-0 squad has their sights set on their Monday night matchup against their old division rival Seattle Seahawks, who are 7-2 and second place in the NFC West. With quarterback Russel Wilson playing lights out, and San Francisco’s defense among the NFL’s best, it’s certainly shaping up to be a clash of titans at Levi’s Stadium.
We’ll get into that and more in our weekly mailbag column. You’re welcome to drop questions in here for next week’s mailbag or tweet me @Rob_Lowder.
When should we expect to see K Robbie Gould back? Sam
We included this one upfront, just in case any of our readers are yet to see the latest 49ers injury news. The 49ers kicker is the latest victim of the injury bug, having suffered a strained quad during the week. Gould isn’t expected to play on Monday, so the 49ers signed former Los Angeles Chargers kicker Chase McLaughlin to fill in. The injury isn’t considered significant, and Gould likely returns within a week or two.
Will Richard Sherman’s experience with the Seahawks help to limit Russell Wilson? Chris
Sherman’s time spent with Wilson in Seattle undoubtedly gives him an advantage that other cornerbacks will not have. He’ll be able to offer unique insight to the entire defense on how to put the Seahawks’ quarterback into a position that favors the 49ers defense. On the other hand, much of Wilson’s success comes from off-schedule plays that cannot be predicted. Sherman’s presence helps the 49ers, but the current NFL MVP front-runner will still find a way.
Is it crazy to think the 49ers should move LB Fred Warner back to WILL and put LB Dre Greenlaw at MIKE? Zack
I don’t think that’s crazy, Zack, but I also don’t think it’s the path the 49ers take to replacing Kwon Alexander. Robert Saleh likely won’t want to move two players to new spots just to replace one, even if Warner’s already played at WILL. Greenlaw is expected to step in for Alexander at that spot, and the hope is he can fill in as successfully as the other players that’ve replaced starters during the team’s 8-0 run. The energy that Alexander brought to the defense will be harder to replace than his production.
Will WR Trent Taylor play this season? Kal
Shanahan recently touched on this, and it doesn’t seem likely. Taylor broke his foot late in training camp and has been unable to bounce back. He’s suffered multiple setbacks, one of which includes an infection after surgery. It’s a shame because Taylor was far-and-away the 49ers’ best receiver throughout the offseason. He likely finishes out the year on injured reserve and attempts to make his comeback in 2020.
Any update on WR Jalen Hurd? Todd
Shanahan also updated the media on the progress of Hurd on Thursday, who suffered a stress fracture in his back during the preseason. The 49ers’ rookie receiver seems to have a better shot of returning this season than Taylor. He was working out on the sideline during practice this week. The 49ers can activate his practice window next week before the team’s Week 11 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Shanahan said they’ll evaluate Hurd’s progress and wait to activate his window until they feel he has the best shot to return.
Why hasn’t Dante Pettis emerged as a go-to receiver? Albarran
Pettis’ second season with the 49ers has been odd. It’s been a mixture of frustration and flashes of what he showed at the close of his rookie year. The presence of veteran Emmanuel Sanders takes the pressure of Pettis to be that guy and allows him to develop at a slower pace, which is common for young wideouts. There isn’t any one reason that Pettis has failed to develop into Jimmy Garoppolo’s go-to, but I wouldn’t give up on the second-year receiver just yet.
Given the run game’s success, should the 49ers trade RB Jerick McKinnon in the offseason and address other needs? Milkman
What to do with McKinnon is definitely something that’s crossed my mind. He has a cap number of $8.5 million, none of which is guaranteed. It’s a number the 49ers simply won’t accept given McKinnon’s struggles to return from a torn ACL suffering in 2018. His salary cap impact also makes him difficult to trade. If I had to guess, I would assume the front office attempts to restructure McKinnon’s contract to keep him around. Shanahan has a very high opinion of McKinnon’s ability, and we’ve never gotten to see how he’d be utilized in the 49ers offense.
What’s the latest of Garrett Celek? CT
The 49ers opened up the practice window for tight end Garett Celek this week. The 49ers’ veteran tight end has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list after undergoing back surgery in the offseason. Celek will practice for three weeks, after which the 49ers will either add him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve. Celek is adored within the 49ers locker room, and I anticipate the team taking a serious look at how they can work him on to the roster.
Is this team built to beat the New England Patriots? Scott
I believe so, Scott, and it starts on defense. Saleh’s group is sound, and the pass rush would appreciate Tom Brady’s lack of mobility. New England’s offense struggled against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and would likely suffer a similar fate against a better 49ers defense. Shanahan’s offense would have enough success to edge a team like New England, despite currently owning the league’s best defense. Of course, it’s never that simple, but if the 49ers face the Patriots in February, I like their chances.
Best 49ers podcast? Sean
It has to be Striking Gold on the Blue Wire Network. The host that sounds like a mix of Ray Ramano and Kermit the Frog is easily the best of the lot. But seriously, there’s a ton of great podcasts out there that are worth your time, and I don’t listen to enough of them to have any hot takes. Better Rivals, Candlestick Chronicles, Locked on 49ers, 49ers Insiders, Scarlet Jimmies, No Huddle, and much more. There’s no shortage of solid content. Y’all are spoiled.