The San Francisco 49ers are in a must-win scenario this Sunday and likely for the remainder of the season if they hope to make the playoffs. Let’s look at two players on each side of the ball to watch against the Rams this week.
RG Colton McKivitz/Tom Compton
The rest of the season is a tryout for a handful of players. McKivitz and Compton fall into that group. Head coach Kyle Shanahan had this to say Wednesday about both of his right guards:
“I was impressed with Compton and McKivitz coming in on early notice versus Green Bay and rotating and playing pretty good. I thought both of them took a step forward in the right direction versus New Orleans. So, we’ll see how this year keeps going with both of them. They’ve been competing real well, and we’ll see if one gets ahead of the other, but I’ve been happy with their progress so far.”
McKivitz stepped the wrong way on a critical fourth down against the Saints, but he’s been better than expected for a Day 3 pick. Compton was a journeyman, and he’s held up fine as well. Compton only has two blown blocks on 79 snaps, while McKivitz has missed the same on 47 snaps. That explains Compton out-snapping McKivitz. Sunday, both will have to face that Aaron Donald guy.
Donald is first in hurries, total pressures, third in sacks, and in the top 10 in QB hits and knockdowns. You didn’t need those stats to know he’s the best player in the NFL. If the Niners are going to have a chance, they’ll need to prevent Donald from taking over the game, and that starts with McKivitiz/Compton.
CB Jamar Taylor
It’s been an up and down year for the slot cornerback. Taylor was torched against the Dolphins, competed well against the Rams, made big plays against the Pats, then was picked on again versus the Packers before playing another impressive game against the Saints.
Taylor struggled the further he has to cover down the field, which is what you’d expect to see when he’s guarding Kupp. We won’t see Kupp running deep routes. We will see him running intermediate crossing and out routes. Kupp and Robert Woods are tough matchups for any corner, so Taylor will have his hands full. Taylor needs to avoid giving up the big play while he continues to impact both a run defender and a blitzer.
DT Javon Kinlaw
The Rams offensive line has not played well. McVay has done a fantastic job at scheming around them. With left tackle Andrew Whitworth out, there isn’t a player along that stands out. Los Angeles had to shuffle players around with Whitworth’s injury, and what better time for rookie Javon Kinlaw to have a coming-out party after the bye week.
Kinlaw’s season numbers won’t impress, but he has trended in the right way. Most of his “wins” came in November. This is one of the first games where Kinlaw can overpower his opponent. The Rams interior features lineman who aren’t nearly as stout as the Saints line.
I’m looking forward to seeing Kinlaw in the second half as he continues to progress.