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Five 49ers to watch in the Super Bowl: All eyes on Jimmy G

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Don’t sleep on Buckner

San Francisco 49ers Practice Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

There will be no more media availability for either team. All that’s left is to play the game. Here are five players to watch as the San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs for all the marbles.

Mike Person

There are a couple of things that can spoil the 49er’s victory on Sunday. One of them is Chris Jones, which means right guard Mike Person needs to be on his A-game. The stage is set for the Niners offense to have a big day. Obvious third downs where Kansas City can pin their ears back is a potential problem, as are the early downs where Jones can win with his athleticism. Person hasn’t been beaten in two playoff games and has taken his run blocking to another level, but he hasn’t faced a talent like Jones. The last time he did—in Week 15 against Grady Jarrett—Person had his worst game of the season. That can’t happen again.

Dre Greenlaw

The spotlight hasn’t been too big for Greenlaw, who has improved each week. The 49ers haven’t seen an offense like Kansas City’s, and not just from a talent and speed standpoint. There are so many moving parts, and the Chiefs get you out of position with motion before the snap and route concepts afterward that Greenlaw’s head will be on a swivel from start to finish. The defense will rely on Greenlaw to excel in the passing game.

The 49ers defense faced just one opponent that passed the ball over 19 times in the first half in their last seven games. Don’t be surprised if Patrick Mahomes throws it over 50 times in the Super Bowl. They can come into 3x1 sets where a linebacker is matched up against a speedy receiver. Also, play-action and misdirection have given Greenlaw issues. The youngster needs to show he can be sound and won’t fall for any of the Chief’s tricks.

Kyle Juszczyk

This is one of those sneaky big games from Juice, where he will have a big say in the success of the running game, particularly getting to the outside, as well as through the air. The box score would tell you Juszczyk isn’t much of a receiving threat, but Kyle Shanahan wouldn’t have it any other way. The theme of this season has been a couple of quiet games, then a few big plays in the next game for Juszczyk. The first two games Juszczyk was quiet, then he had the Steelers game. The same process happened, and Week 11, then again in Week 17, Juice had big receptions. The 49ers fullback didn’t have a reception in the first two playoff games. He’s due for a few big passing plays.

DeForest Buckner

The 49ers edge rushers get a lot of hype, and rightfully so, and Arik Armstead has been terrific all season. Buckner did a lot of the dirty work this season, so his stats weren’t as good as they were a season ago. That doesn’t mean he was worse on the field. Despite all the double teams, Buckner was still tied for seventh in total pressures among interior defensive linemen. The Chiefs’ weak link of their offensive line is their guards. Kansas City also struggles with twists and stunts, which means Buckner has a strong chance of living in their backfield on Sunday. He hasn’t been mentioned much by the media this week, but Buckner may have the best chance of any 49ers linemen to have a big day based on the matchups.

Jimmy Garoppolo

The game won’t come down to if Jimmy G plays well or not. He’ll have to make throws, but he has all season. Keep an eye on Garoppolo’s nerves. Is he missing high early on? Is he holding on to the ball longer? Or is he playing confident, fast, and letting her rip? Usually, once Garoppolo gets hit is when he starts playing his best ball. The story of the Super Bowl will be the 49ers offense and how efficient they are, specifically in the red zone. Everyone will tell you Shanahan was protecting Garoppolo in the playoffs, completely ignoring how the Niners build a lead. They’ll tell you he can’t throw, ignoring that he’s statistically the best third-down quarterback in the NFL. Who cares that he led the offense back against the Saints down 13 points, or drove the field against Seattle, twice. Or completed two big-time third down passes against the Rams. That doesn’t matter as it doesn’t fit their narrative.

If you’re worried about underneath defenders and Jimmy G, that’s fair. If you’re worried about sacks, that’s fair. I can’t wait to see what Shanahan’s script looks like. Does he give Jimmy a few easy throws to get him some confidence, or does he take a shot deep early on to get the nerves out of the way? Garoppolo’s start will be what I’m watching.