“You can’t factor in too much of this season because he’s been hurt the whole time, but in the Super Bowl, he proved what he is,” an evaluator said. “They don’t trust him enough to put the ball in his hands and let him throw it around. His big gains come off of well-designed plays where he’s not throwing the ball down the field. He is giving it to his playmakers, and they are making plays.”
“I’m selling stock,” one offensive coach told the outlet.
“I think he may be done in San Francisco,” an NFL executive said. “And if they keep him, it’s only because they don’t have another option.”
While injuries have ravaged the 49ers roster, the Saints have continued plugging away as perhaps the best team in the NFC. The opposite directions they’ve gone this year are reflected in the point spread for Sunday’s game. Bet MGM has New Orleans favored by 9.5 points.
It’s hard to argue the line should be lower than that given the amount of starters out for the 49ers. They were already banged up coming out of Week 9 and they didn’t get any healthier with the additional days off after their Thursday night game.
Perhaps their best chance to cover the 9.5 points and keep the margin within single digits is with a couple of late scores like we saw against the Seahawks and Packers. San Francisco didn’t cover in either of those contests, but that appears to be the only way they can consistently produce offense with the unit as it currently stands.
The pick: Saints -9.5
The 49ers reportedly recently sent vice president of player personnel Adam Peters to see Wilson play, and if he came away with the same impression that Young has of the true junior, they might believe they’ve found their quarterback of the future.
“The kid is a really good player,” Young said Wednesday on KNBR’s “Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks” show. “I mean, I’m not going to say he’s Patrick Mahomes, but I’m saying he plays like Patrick Mahomes. There’s no throw he can’t make, and he’s just intuitive and really present when he’s playing. Man, every week, you’re like, ‘Wow. This is something good.’”
1. Will Kyle Shanahan go back to what’s worked? – As we have seen throughout the 2020 season, the 49ers offensive struggles when Shanahan gets away from his jet sweep and screen game. A big part of the reason for this is that the offensive line is nowhere near the level that it was a season ago. Pass protection has been an ongoing issue all season and the inside run game has been hit or miss as well.
Going back to the jet sweep and screen game will allow the 49ers to attack the edges of the Saints defense, which should in turn open up the middle of the field as the game progresses. With Brandon Aiyuk back after missing the Green Bay game and Richie James slated to see more action, there’s no excuse for Shanahan to not get the ball into their hands repeatedly on these types of plays this week.
Kwon Alexander, Linebacker, New Orleans Saints
Revenge games are always fun. The 49ers will get a double dose on Sunday with Emmanuel Sanders and Kwon Alexander.
Sanders’ role is carved out with New Orleans, but Alexander’s usage is much more up in the air.
San Francisco traded him to New Orleans last week. He didn’t get the chance to make his debut against the team that drafted him (Tampa Bay), so it will likely come against the 49ers.
How he’s used remains to be seen. Given the struggles of both Davis (57.6 PFF grade) and Alex Anzalone (62.7), it’s not out of the question Alexander plays a lot.
Alexander (55.4 PFF grade this season) had a very up-and-down 49ers tenure.
He was a key leader on the 2019 NFC Championship defense, but also missed a lot of tackles. Given his inconsistency, injuries and salary, it was no surprise to see him traded.
San Francisco knows his strengths and weaknesses. He’s not a great tackler and gets beat in pass-coverage.
The Saints have a history of laying eggs following emotional wins; and after their total domination over the Bucs, they especially need to heed Sean Payton’s old adage “Don’t eat the cheese.” As Brees has clarified, “In other words, don’t believe the stuff other people are feeding you about how great you are and all this other stuff. Don’t eat it man. It’s a trap. You’ve got to keep working.”
Alexander can help the Saints this week in another unique way...as a double agent. The Saints have often signed players from divisional and conference rivals, but they rarely do so mid-season. Teddy Bridgewater can only tell the Panthers what the Saints were doing last year, but Alexander can tell the Saints what the 49ers were doing up until two weeks ago.
His intel might not be earth-moving, but it could certainly help the Saints as they prepare to face a conference foe who has almost always provided close and contested matchups.