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Golden Nuggets: Did Witherspoon save his career with the 49ers?

Your daily San Francisco 49ers links for Monday, December 28, 2020

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San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 49ers' opponents for 2021 were announced. San Francisco travels to Green Bay Minnesota, Houston, and the Colts. They’ll host the Bears, Lions, Jags, and Titans. More on that later.

Young dishes on Jimmy G’s future as 49ers’ starting QB

“Jimmy is a very good football player and I think it’s just going to be whether Jimmy is the guy that Kyle wants for the next five years,” Young told ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. “We’re at a moment here where it’s not like for another year or two but, ‘Who do I want for the next five years, next eight years while I’m going to be coaching the Niners for a long time.’ ... And I think it feels like there’s this moment in time where those two need to sit down and figure out how much they trust each other and how much they really fit, and if they don’t, can they conform, or is there something new that they can learn about each other that could help?”

SF 49ers: Ahkello Witherspoon stood out for right reasons vs. Cardinals

Did Ahkello Witherspoon save his career with SF 49ers

Witherspoon is an unrestricted free agent in 2021, and his diminished role suggests he won’t be a re-sign priority at all for a team that has 39 other free agents of some form or another.

Speaking of free agents, though, the SF 49ers could lose a significant portion of their secondary to free agency this offseason. Sherman doesn’t seem likely to return. Verrett and Williams are also unrestricted free agents, while depth corner Emmanuel Moseley is a restricted free agent.

One might not think Witherspoon is a must-sign player for the Niners. But if he winds up being retained on a cheaper deal to at least round out the depth chart and maintain some sort of continuity, that could be a bonus.

If anything, Witherspoon certainly made a better case for himself in this regard after faring so well against one of the more potent passing offenses in the league this season.

Arizona Cardinals look lifeless in latest loss to San Francisco 49ers

“Ooof. Did not see this coming,” Haason Reddick said after the game.

What a disgrace. What an indictment on the culture of this program. The Cardinals no longer control their playoff destiny, and that’s appropriate. They don’t deserve a playoff berth after this marshmallow performance.

In the matchup of head coaches, this was a bloody TKO. In the battleground of ambition, willpower and carpe diem, it was even worse.

The 49ers didn’t ask for respect. They grabbed it with both hands, paying whatever price the moment required.

Few football teams in 2020 have dealt with more misfortune than the 49ers, from wildfires in Northern California to debilitating injuries to Covid-19 restrictions that forced them to spend the last month in Glendale.

They spent Christmas at the Renaissance hotel, flying in family members for the weekend. They took the field on Saturday with nothing on the line except pride and professionalism.

Their sincerity and conviction was exhilarating. It was far too much for Kliff Kingsbury’s crew.

Robert Saleh and the San Francisco 49ers’ defense held the Arizona Cardinals to just 350 total yards (4.4 yards per play) and forced two


San Francisco linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner finished the game with two of the highest PFF grades among all defensive players on first review of the broadcast film. Both players recorded multiple defensive stops and 80.0-plus PFF coverage grades in the contest.

Outside of a few highlight-reel runs, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray put together a forgettable performance against San Francisco. He completed just 31-of-50 passes for 247 yards, took three sacks and threw a costly interception to Ahkello Witherspoon in the end zone late in the game. He earned a sub-70.0 PFF grade on first review.

Arizona running back Kenyan Drake and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins also finished the game with sub-60.0 PFF grades. Drake averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, and Hopkins caught eight passes for only 48 yards.

Offensively for the 49ers, it was the Jeff Wilson Jr. show. Taking advantage of wide-open lanes in the running game, Wilson totaled 183 rushing yards from 22 carries (8.3 yards per carry) despite forcing just one missed tackle on the day.

9 observations from the Cardinals’ 20-12 loss to the 49ers

If you can point to one thing on offense, it was their inability to make plays on third down. They converted on only 4-of-16 on the afternoon. They did make up a little bit for it by going 4-for-6 on fourth down. But between that and only having three red zone trips, they just didn’t get it done.

Entering the game, the Cardinals held the final playoff spot and controlled things. Now they do not. Even with a win over the L.A. Rams in Week 17, they need the Chicago Bears to lose a game or have the Rams lose to the Seattle Seahawks.

That is what happens when you don’t take care of business.


TRADE: San Francisco trades 2021 1st & 2nd round picks, 2022 1st, 2nd & 3rd round picks & 2023 3rd round pick to New York (Jets) for No. 2 overall

The 49ers make a big splash. The Jets make a shocking move. Welcome to pandemonium, everyone!

The inspiration for this trade was the Los Angeles Rams’ trade for Jared Goff in 2016, when the Rams gave up two 1s, two 2s and two 3s to move up from No. 16 overall.

For San Francisco, this move makes sense as well. The 49ers have a Super Bowl-caliber roster when healthy. That has been the catch in 2020, of course. The 49ers have seen their roster shredded by injuries worse than just about every other team in the league. And on the fringe of the strike zone to secure a new quarterback to replace a regressed Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers can invest their top assets into replacing Garoppolo with the hottest commodity in football, Zach Wilson. Why pick Wilson over Ohio State QB Justin Fields? For Kyle Shanahan’s offense, I simply like the fit better. Fields is a stud, but Wilson’s style of play offers enough similarities to Garoppolo with a cheaper payroll and a much higher ceiling.