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49ers vs. Giants: What to expect when the Niners are on defense

Daniel Jones is capable of making plays, but the 49ers defensive line, despite injuries, should have the advantage in this matchup

San Francisco 49ers v New York Jets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

We previewed what to expect when the San Francisco 49ers and Nick Mullens are on the field against the New York Giants. Now it’s time to discuss what happens when Daniel Jones faces a depleted Niners defensive line.

Danny Dimes’ under pressure

Per PFF, no player has been under pressure more when they have dropped back to pass this season. Jones has been under pressure a whopping 41% of the time. Jones is completing 42% of his passes under pressure and has thrown two interceptions on 26 attempts. It’s fair to assume that a bulk of that pressure came Week 1 against the Steelers, who are loaded along the defensive line. Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack had their way with the Giants tackles. Even Barkevious Mingo had a sack. Jones was pressured on 27% of his dropbacks against Chicago.

Coming into this season, the Giants’ offensive tackles were questionable, at best. That has not changed. This is their first-rounder Andrew Thomas going against Quinn:

Not only does Thomas get beat by Quinn, but Jones also doesn’t sense Quinn and compounds that mistake by losing the ball. The 49ers must take advantage of Jones’s lack of pocket awareness.

Sunday would have been one of those “MVP” type of games for Nick Bosa. If only. We’ll see what Ziggy Ansah and Dion Jordan bring to the table. If Kerry Hyder Jr. plays as he did in Week 2, the 49ers will be fine.

Grounding the Giants group of wideouts

Jason Garrett calls the plays, and the Giants have become pass-happy on early downs. New York throws the ball 68% of the time, which is the highest in the NFL. For comparison, the 49ers are 29th in the same statistic at 42% of the time. Garrett has only called 16 play-action passes in two games. I’d say expect many quick passes, but Sterling Shepard is out for Sunday’s game. Three of Jones’s first four throws went in Shepard’s direction during Week 2. During Week 1, Shepard caught all six of his passes. He’s the safety blanket for Jones.

Expect for a heavy dose of Evan Engram. He’s a difficult matchup for any player. Engram caught six passes against the Bears, and four of them went for first downs. Here’s a look at Engram’s longest reception of the day:

That play went for 22 yards on 3rd & 10. Those plays are backbreaking for a defense to give up. The 49ers must tackle Engram, and Golden Tate, who Robert Saleh said is one of the most challenging receivers to tackle in the league. The short middle of the field has been the worst area for the Niners this season. Even against the Jets, they gave up too much. I saw Kwon Alexander out of position on a few occasions. The Bears passing offense exploited the middle of the field last week. Warner rarely allows receivers to go uncovered over the middle of the field. He’ll need to keep that tradition going this week and force Jones to make contested throws.

Chicago’s linebacker took the ball right out of Engram’s hands for an interception on one play. The matchup between Engram and Fred Warner should be fantastic. Warner has picked up right where he left off last season as the NFL’s top linebacker.

Darius Slayton is the Giants home run threat. He can flat out fly. It seems like he’s open down the field every game. The only question is whether Slayton will catch the ball or not. That speed causes cornerbacks to open up and give him a lot of cushion, which opens up the intermediate out routes and curls. Whether it’s Emmanuel Moseley, Ahkello Witherspoon, or Jason Verrett, the cornerbacks will have their hands full with New York’s receivers, despite them missing Shepard.

So much for Saquon

Without their best player, Saquon Barkley, the Giants turned to Dion Lewis. He ran the ball 10 times for 20 yards against Chicago. Barkley is as dangerous of a running back as it gets in the NFL. Lewis is a quality inside runner, but he lacks the juice that Barkley has. Who doesn’t? Through two weeks, the Giants were the second-worst rushing team in EPA and third-worst using success rate.

In Chicago’s defense, the Steelers are going to terrorize a lot of teams, and Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith impressed last week. D.J. Jones and Javon Kinlaw have been stout against the run. They’ve been great at keeping Warner clean, though Warner doesn’t need any help making plays. If Alexander continues to be aggressive against the run, the 49ers, who have been an elite run defense so far, shouldn’t have any trouble stopping the Giants’ ground game. The Giants offensive line is dead last in adjusted line yards, and it shows up when you watch them.

Make the Giants dimensional. Get to Jones early and make him feel the pressure. When you do get home, go for the ball. Jones is going to give the secondary chances to make plays. He had an interception that was called back last week for a penalty that was as much of a penalty as K’Waun Williams’s “defensive holding” call in Week 1. Missed tackles and big plays are the only things I’d be worried about. I think Jones turns it over, and that’ll be the difference in the game.