The San Francisco 49ers return home atop the NFC West standings at 2-0, thanks to the performance of some of general manager John Lynch’s draft picks. Let’s take a look at how some of the 49ers’ rookies performed in their dominant victory over the Bengals in Cincinnati.
Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel
San Francisco’s second-round pick is turning into head coach Kyle Shanahan’s most dependable — and most talented — receiver on the field. The 49ers’ play-caller is starting to use wideout Deebo Samuel as a chess piece on offense, moving him around the field and finding a way to get him the ball in space.
The former South Carolina receiver caught his first NFL touchdown this past Sunday. It was a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, as Samuel found himself in the end zone wide open as the result of a defensive miscue.
Samuel caught four other passes for a total of 87 yards on Sunday, while also adding seven yards on two rushing attempts. The 49ers’ second-round pick is one of two 49ers’ rookies to put up this stat line in the past ten seasons — the other being wideout Dante Pettis.
Defensive End Nick Bosa
The 49ers’ first-round selection was dominant in the opener against the Buccaneers’ offensive line but was questionable heading into Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a re-aggravation of his ankle injury.
As a result, Bosa didn’t play in nearly as many snaps in Cincinnati — 31 (or 44 percent of the defensive plays), down from 39 (or 56 percent of the defensive plays). It didn’t matter that Bosa played fewer snaps, his impact on the field was still known.
The former Ohio State pass rusher finished with four pressures on 20 pass-rushing snaps and now has ten pressures through two weeks — which leads all defensive rookies. Per Pro Football Focus, Bosa’s pass-rushing grade dropped a bit in Week 2, but on linebacker Kwon Alexander’s interception, Bosa’s rush up the middle caused the whole play.
Punter Mitch Wishnowsky
Punterville — as my guy Pat Holloway says — is collecting more citizens by the day. 49ers’ fourth-round pick Mitch Wishnowsky showed his control during Sunday’s game. The former Ute had two punts, pinning the Bengals on the two-yard line on one of the punts.
As long as Wishnowsky takes advantage of the few punts — hopefully, none — he gets each week, he’s going to be Mayor of Punterville.
Offensive Lineman Justin Skule
With the injury to left tackle Joe Staley late in the game, the 49ers had no choice but to bring in rookie tackle Justin Skule to take over his spot. By the time that Skule entered the game, the 49ers were firmly in control, and it became valuable practice repetitions for Skule.
Postgame, Shanahan added “We were mainly running the ball at that time. But it was good to get him in a real NFL game especially since he’s going to be playing a lot next week.” The 49ers have not added any tackles to the active roster and Skule’s set to make his starting debut this upcoming Sunday.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw
The 49ers’ most underrated rookie saw a significant dip in his playing time this past Sunday. After playing in 80 percent of the snaps in Week 1 against the Buccaneers, Greenlaw followed that up by only playing in 29 percent of the snaps against the Bengals.
Even with the reduced playing time, Greenlaw was still productive, racking up four tackles in flying sideline-to-sideline. The Steelers will use a lot of three wide-receiver sets, which will likely limit Greenlaw’s playing time against Pittsburgh as well.