The San Francisco 49ers will look to get in the win column as they travel east to face the New York Jets during Week 2. After Sunday, the initial reactions from the majority of fans were to take the “sky is falling approach.” We saw that the Niners didn’t play as nearly as bad as we initially thought after further review. There are no moral victories in the NFL, though. As we turn the page to the Jets, here are six things to watch during Week 2’s matchup.
Some help for Bosa
The defensive line did a nice job last Sunday as far as fitting the run as a unit. It’s tough to get recognition when you play inside and aren’t necessarily asked to “win” against the run. Upfront, the line made life easy for Fred Warner, and that is their job.
four plays from fred warner, the best LB in the business pic.twitter.com/xUh0rWw8tb— KP (@KP_Show) September 18, 2020
As far as rushing the passer, I doubt the line, save Nick Bosa, received glowing reviews. Simply put, the high-priced defensive lineman has to play better.
If there is a team to do that against, it’s the Jets. Sam Darnold tends to hold onto the ball, and the Jets offensive line isn’t exactly world-beaters. Darnold tends to run out of clean pockets. Last Sunday, it looked like he was running for his life against the Bills. The Jets gave up three sacks, and one QB hit. The 49ers must make Darnold pay by getting after him early and often. I want to see the young linemen who stood out during training camp make plays against New York’s offensive line.
As we saw early in the game last week with Raheem Mostert’s long touchdown and on a few other routes, and a couple of times to Jerick McKinnon, the 49ers running backs showed they could be a threat out of the backfield. Schematically, the Jets were a mess Week 1. They had their linebackers guarding receivers. With the 49ers down George Kittle, instead of increasing Jordan Reed’s production, I’d guess we see more running backs in the passing game. Not only are these easy throws for Jimmy Garoppolo, but these completions also keep the offense ahead of the chains and, as Mostert showed, have an opportunity to go the distance. Keep an eye on how often the Niners target McKinnon.
Another strong outing from the offensive line?
The 49ers started a center from the practice squad and Daniel Brunskill, who is still inexperienced, and played as well as you could’ve hoped for in Week 1. The running game had a 48% success rate, which is slightly above the league average. The offensive line was 10th in adjusted line yards, allowing an average of just under 4.5 yards before contact. In pass protection, the offensive line wasn’t responsible for a sack and allowed three QB hits on over 35 dropbacks.
The Jets were stingy against the run last year, and that continued against the Bills last week. While New York doesn’t have a Chandler Jones, they’re sure to be blitz-happy and load the box to stop the Niner running game. I want to see how the guys up front look against a more aggressive defense.
Good news for Garoppolo
Buffalo was successful on 55% of their passes last week, which was the 10th-best figure from Week 1. The Jets played off coverage for the majority of the game, sometimes giving a cushion of 10 yards against the Bills wideouts. Over and over, Buffalo made New York’s cornerbacks pay by throwing out routes at the first down marker.
The Jets seemed terrified of giving up the big play and were content with giving up throws underneath, even if that meant a seven-yard completion. Their approach should bode well for Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners offense. The running backs should have a big day, but so should the receivers. Brandon Aiyuk couldn’t have asked for a better secondary to make his debut against. Garoppolo is in a perfect situation to bounceback after a poor showing Week 1.
Will Witherspoon start fast?
During training camp, Ahkello Witherspoon’s performances were directly tied to the first couple of plays he was involved in. If Witherspoon broke up a pass or forced an incompletion, he’d be jawing with teammates for the rest of the practice and look like the player that resembled an All-Pro cornerback before Witherspoon went down with an injury in 2019.
If Witherspoon were a step late on a throw or gave up a catch, he’d dwell on that play, and it would affect his performance for the remainder of practice. During his final few starts of 2019, Witherspoon appeared to play with the mindset that he “doesn’t want to make a mistake” as opposed to Witherspoon trying to make a play. Keep an eye on how aggressive ‘Spoon is and his demeanor. Ahkello has all of the talent in the world. Can he shake off the inevitable bad plays that happen to every cornerback? I’ll go out on a limb and say Witherspoon has an interception.