We had a special guest join us on today’s episode of The Shanaplan. Former 49ers safety and two-time Pro Bowler Donte Whitner was kind enough to hop on today’s podcast with Akash and me.
We recapped the Falcons game and spoke about one thing we liked on each side of the ball. We also discussed the NFC playoff picture, debating the best and worst matchups for the Niners.
Once Whitner joined us, the playoff talk turned to if he’s comfortable knowing this team likely goes as far as Jimmy Garoppolo would carry them. Here’s what Donte had to say:
It’s not going to be against the Falcons every week. You have Green Bay, the Bucs, and some top-tier defenses. It’s going to be difficult. I think everyone in the locker rooms knows, coaches, GM, players, that they’re only going to go as far as Jimmy takes them.
There’s going to come a point where you’re not just going to be able to run the ball. You’re going to have to depend on Jimmy to drop back, make the proper decisions, be decisive and confident in what he’s seeing, and get the ball to his playmakers.
Right now, I’m comfortable with that. Right now, what, 12.6 yards per completion, number one in the NFL. And it’s not like he’s throwing it over guys' heads, he’s just getting it to his playmakers and allowing them to get yards after the catch.
I think if they can keep that controlled gameplan, and they can get somewhat of a smidgen of a running game, I’m OK with Jimmy handling. If you watch two of the last three games in the fourth quarter and overtime, he didn’t flinch. He knew exactly where to go with the ball. There was some tight windows out there against Cincinnati, and he didn’t hold back. I like that gunslinger mentality.
Defensively, cornerback is the big question mark for the 49ers. Knowing the offenses we’ll see in the playoffs. There won’t be a way for DeMeco Ryans to hide his cornerbacks. Whitner spoke about how starting safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward could help Ambry Thomas, both now and if he were called on in the playoffs:
They can disguise with the width and the depth of these safeties. If your safeties are really good with their shoulders, and not just running and turning their hips, going to the middle of the field — similar to that route that they threw to Ja’Marr Chase in the middle of the field.
If Jimmie Ward was to move slightly to the left, if Ambry Thomas was to move up to four yards, and at the snap of the ball, Ward take three read/backpedal steps with his shoulders square, and not just to the middle, you’ll take the quarterback off of that read.
Now the QB is thinking, ‘oh there’s too much width over there and the depth. He might be able to cover that. Let me go to my second, third, and fourth read. That’s how you manipulate a quarterbacks read and get them off the young rookie. But they’re not doing that in the secondary and it really concerns me.
Whitner was great. He gave nuanced answers and was conversational.
Akash and I also discussed the Titans, where we believe Mike Vrabel could take advantage of the 49ers, and why Kyle Shanahan would ultimately prevail. Listen to the entire conversation below.
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Here’s the YouTube link to Whitner, who was wearing a Christmas sweater and elf pants at 8 a.m. when we recorded his part on Monday: