We are a few days away from the San Francisco 49ers hosting a playoff game in the Divisional round, something that felt like a long shot before training camp. Now that we are in the postseason, the loss to the Falcons doesn’t matter. The clock management gripes, turnovers, blown coverages, you name it, that doesn’t matter. It’s how the 49ers play from here on out. That’s how this season will be remembered.
Here are four players on the roster that have something to prove this postseason.
This is why the 49ers went out and traded for Ford last March. Ford had one of the best seasons from an edge rusher in 2018 in recent memory. When he was on the field for San Francisco this season, we saw his impact:
#49ers haven't had Dee Ford available much this year but he's been effective when he has been.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) January 6, 2020
Niners had 24 sacks on 164 snaps with Nick Bosa and Ford on the field together this season.
They had 24 sacks on 801 snaps on all other plays.
Getting Ford back would be big.
If Ford produces during the playoffs, his regular-season injury will be largely forgotten. It feels odd to say this after Wagoner’sWagoner’s stat above, but Ford still has to prove he’s worth that $87.5 million contract. We’veWe’ve seen arguments this season saying the team should move on from Ford this offseason. Ford can change that tune with a couple of strong playoff performances.
From a snap count perspective, Coleman is RB2 on the roster. He continues to start and get touches randomly throughout the game. I’veI’ve been tough on Coleman this season, but he has value. How much value is up for debate. Coleman is on a two-year deal, but if the 49ers cut him before June 1, the team saves $4.9 million in cap space. The Vikings are stingy in terms of giving up yards to running backs through the air, and with Coleman being the third-down back, he’ll also be responsible for picking up blitzers.
Coleman had a big run against the Rams and the Falcons but has been largely quiet over the second half of the season. Coleman had five games in the second half, where he averaged under 2.2 yards per carry. With a strong playoff run, Coleman could convince Shanahan and company to keep him around. Durability is important at the position, especially considering who this team has signed and lost.
Against the Saints, Sanders had 157 yards. In three games since, Sanders has had 95 yards receiving. It’sIt’s not as if San Francisco has been struggling to score. The offense has been moving the ball up and down the field, but Sanders has kind of been the forgotten man. The 49ers will have a decision to make on Sanders in a couple of months. It feels naive to assume Sanders will take a team-friendly deal. Some may think the 49er’s success plays into their favor, but I feel like it’s the other way around.
Let’sLet’s say Sanders has a big day against Minnesota, and that continues for the playoffs. Teams are going to overpay for him in March. It’llIt’ll likely be a team that offers more than the 49ers are willing to pay. This is one of the more intriguing storylines to me. Sanders has meant so much more to the receiving group that stats will say. The young wideouts didn’t become reliable on accident. A lot of that is learning from the veteran Sanders. If he has a big postseason, San Francisco will be faced with an incredibly difficult decision moving forward.
One of my favorite players to watch on this team, Tartt proved his worth this season. San Francisco was tremendous on defense with Tartt on the field. They took a big step back in December defensively for numerous reasons, but one of those is Tartt. The issue with Tartt is his availability. This was the first season of his career when Tartt started double-digit games. If the 49ers are going to build something long-term, will they be able to rely on Tartt? I don’t think it happens, but the team can save $4.9 million in cap space if Tartt is cut before June 1.
Tartt has a chance to have a big postseason. With the Vikings running 11 personnel, only 11% of the time, we can expect Tartt to live around the line of scrimmage. He’llHe’ll likely be tasked with making sure Dalvin Cook doesn’t get outside on runs, but he plays enough deep safety where Tartt will be the reason the Vikings don’t have success in their play-action game as well. Fully healed from a rib injury, Tartt has a chance to prove his worth.