The San Francisco 49ers are favorites heading into their Week 3 matchup against the New York Giants. The Niners are decimated by injuries and will be without several of their top players, including Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman, Raheem Mostert, Dee Ford and Tevin Coleman.
Help could be on the way this weekend, with George Kittle, D.J. Jones and Dre Greenlaw participating in practice on Wednesday. We will know more about their status closer to game time.
Without all of these big names, San Francisco needs other players to step-up. Here are three players who need to bring their ‘A’ game this weekend:
DL - Arik Armstead
Armstead signed a five-year $85 million contract in the offseason, and has played well over the first two weeks. Pro Football Focus had him as the highest graded 49ers’ defensive player against the New York Jets at 88.0. With Bosa out, opposing offenses will key on Armstead. Last season, teams were focused on containing Bosa and the departed DeForest Buckner, which allowed Armstead to take advantage of 1-on-1 matchups. Now, without two of the best in the game lined up next to him, the 26-year-old will have to lead the Niners’ pass rush.
RB - Jerick McKinnon
Jet has been very good over the first two weeks. After missing back-to-back seasons with knee injuries, the 28-year-old has bounced back nicely. McKinnon has six carries for 101 yards (55 of which came on a third-and-31) and a touchdown. He’s been effective in the passing game as well with three receptions for 20 yards and a score. McKinnon is averaging 13.4 yards per touch, which he should get a ton of on Sunday without Mostert and Coleman in the lineup. Depending on the game flow, Jet is in line to come close to his career-high in carries in a single game. He had 20 back in Week 5 of the 2016 season, and with Nick Mullens at quarterback, he should approach that number against the Giants.
LB - Kwon Alexander
One of the leaders of the 49ers’ defense needs to be much better going forward. Alexander played a team-high 65 snaps against the Jets, but PFF graded him as one of lower members of the defense at 50.0, including a 42.2 grade in coverage, which is supposed to be his bread and butter. Missed tackles continue to be an issue for Alexander this season, with his MTkl% coming in at 21.1% through two games. Without Bosa, Sherman and Ford in the lineup, the 49ers’ defense needs the remaining veterans to start earning their pay.