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5 players to watch in the 49ers/Eagles matchup: All eyes on Brandon Aiyuk

Will Sermon, Kerr, and Flannigan-Fowles have their career-defining moment?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers look to extend their winning streak against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday. Let’s look at five players that need to make an impact.

Brandon Aiyuk

It was painful to watch Aiyuk not be involved in the offense last week. As a fan, I questioned what Kyle Shanahan was thinking? Nevertheless, the likely reason was that Aiyuk missed ten days of practice paired with the rise of Trent Sherfield through camp and the preseason games.

Aiyuk needs to be on the field for this offense to hit explosive plays consistently. But Aiyuk has to hold up his end. Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel praised Aiyuk for his efforts in practice Thursday, saying, “[Aiyuk] responding this week, he’s been running his routes hard, crisp and it’s gotten better with practice, so it’s been very encouraging.”

Good to hear that Aiyuk has not lost his confidence.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles

I wrote that Flannigan-Fowles was the most intriguing linebacker on the roster. And now he has a chance to show what he can do. Azeez Al-Shaair made his presence felt against the Lions, and we need Flannigan-Fowles to have the same energy.

My main concern with DFF is his ability to defend the run. The defensive tackle’s look to improve stuffing the run, but Flannigan-Fowles worries me when defeating blocks. All in all, DFF’s athleticism will benefit him in man and zone coverage.

Trey Sermon

Sermon should make his rookie debut Sunday. Elijah Mitchell showed that he was here to stay with a dynamic performance last week. Sermon needs to show 49er fans why San Francisco traded up for him.

Pass protection is one way that Sermon can rise up the depth chart. JaMycal Hasty struggled last week, and Jimmy Garoppolo saved him a few times by stepping up in the pocket or getting rid of the ball.

Sermon has the opportunity to be a key contributor this season, especially with the loss of Raheem Mostert. Showing he can become a consistent pass-catcher together with explosive runs will also help his stock.

Zach Kerr

I did not think Kerr would make it through the 53-man cuts. Kerr did not have his hottest game against the Lions. He got pushed around when facing Frank Ragnow, and it won't get any easier when facing Jason Kelce.

Kerr was not alone in getting moved into the linebacker's lap. Several defensive tackles had poor reps against the Lions' interior offensive line. However, when Kerr was signed, he was looked at as a good run-stuffer. In addition, if Javon Kinlaw is out again, he’s currently questionable for Sunday’s game. As a result, San Francisco will need Kerr to play at a much higher level.

Kyle Juszczyk

Juszczyk could have a big game if targeted. The Eagles couldn’t guard George Kittle last year, and I expect them to play it differently this year. That’s when Juszcyzk’s ability becomes a factor.

Juszczyk is an excellent pass-catcher in addition to being a great run blocker. It’s time for Shanahan to switch it up and give Juszczyk some TE2 reps. Ross Dwelly has improved as a receiver, but Juszczyk is more dynamic.

Outlook

In the upcoming game, we look to have our answer to these questions finally. Will Sermon, Kerr, and Flannigan-Fowles have their career-defining moment?

Will Aiyiuk take the next step to stardom?

As a Brandon Aiyuk stan, my expectations are always high. He looks to bury the looming question’s about his health, skill-set, and value.

Can the 49ers get additional value out of Juszczyk?

Juszczyk is being underutilized, which is detrimental to the offenses’ success and limits his true return of investment. He signed a five-year/ 27 million dollar contract in March. It’s for him to be more than a decorated offensive lineman. Juszczyk needs more opportunities as a pass-catcher.