During today’s episode of The Shanaplan, Akash and I went through the winners and losers of the 49ers' first eight games. We could list the usual suspects and stars, but we tried to go outside the box. So let’s not waste any time and get right into it.
Winner: Christian McCaffrey's situation
McCaffrey came from an offense where he was the only one that opposing defenses had to prepare for. Some are high on DJ Moore, but I’ve always struggled to see his value.
McCaffrey’s first game against the Rams as a panther might’ve been more impressive than the three-touchdown game versus Los Angeles, considering he had zero room to operate. However, Week 8 was a glimpse of the space McCaffrey will be afforded in this offense.
This might sound out of left field, but I firmly believe not having 11 players focusing on you will go a long way in keeping CMC healthy. His situation is an easy winner for me.
Winner: Chris Foerster
Jordan Elliott highlighted why Foerster is deserving of the Coach of the (half) Year on the staff. The 49ers have three new starters on the line. They’ve had Trent Williams out for multiple games. Mike McGlinchey has battled injuries. And there has been a constant rotation at right guard.
The 49ers have the fifth-lowest pressure rate allowed in the NFL and are third in the NFL in open field yards — a metric where a team’s running backs earn more than ten yards past the line of scrimmage, divided by total carries. That tells you there are enormous rushing lanes for the ball carriers.
Winner: Charles Omenihu
Charles Omenihu is second on the team in total pressures behind you know who. He has eight run stops. But when you break it down to a percentage, his 10.7 percent run-stop rate is slightly higher than both Bosa and Samson Ebukam’s.
Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek deserves credit, as does DeMeco Ryans for using Omenihu correctly. In a contract year, Omenihu is putting himself in a position for a hefty payday after the season.
At 25, Omenihu is just starting to scratch the surface of his talent. His win percentage as a pass rusher is 22.4 percent. For context, Bosa’s is 24.1 percent, which is second in the league. Omenihu is sixth.
Winner: Scouting department
The scouting and pro personnel department remain one of the best in the business. Omenihu was acquired via a 2023 sixth-round pick. Spencer Burford is starting at right guard. He’s a Day 3 pick. As is Talanoa Hufanga Talanoa Hufanga at safety, Deommodore Lenoir at cornerback, Dre Greenlaw at linebacker, and Jauan Jennings in the slot.
That’s without cherrypicking and using a third-rounder in Fred Warner or a fifth-rounder in George Kittle. Kevin Givens was an undrafted free agent, and he’d start on just about any other team. Givens has filled in admirably due to injuries, but it shows you the depth of the this team and speaks to how aligned the scouting department is with the type of players Kyle Shanahan wants on both sides of the ball.
You’ll have to listen to the full episode below for the rest of the winners.
You’ll also get the other losers that aren’t listed below.
Losers: Jimmie Ward’s free agency
Ward is in the final year of his contract. He had high expectations as he was voted a team captain and was also recognized on the NFL’s Top 100 list. Ward had tough luck and missed the first four games of the season with a broken hand.
Due to that, instead of inserting him back at safety, Ward has been relegated to nickel duties, which isn’t his strength, as we’ve seen. Ward is an excellent post safety, and it’s somewhat head-scratching as to why he didn’t get his job back.
You feel for him when considering Ward’s chances to earn a big contract. He’ll need to have a heck of a second half that includes splash plays.
Losers: Training staff, strength and conditioning program, Shanahan’s practice style
Another year, another injury-riddled season for the 49ers. According to FOX NFL, San Francisco is the seventh-most injured team this year. McCaffrey isn’t acquired if Mitchell or TDP go don’t go down with an injury.
Trent Williams suffered a high-ankle sprain. Both defensive tackles have missed more than a month, and we are in November. The starting quarterback lasted 1.5 games. How many teams have played a game where more starters than not were out? Or without their starting defensive line?
I’m not sure what needs to change, whether it’s the practice style, but whatever Shanahan and company are doing, it’s not working. Perhaps the wear and tear from training camp takes a toll as the season goes along.
It’s naive to act as though the team isn’t aware and hasn’t tried something different. But, again, they keep striking out as injuries continue to mount. You know it’s an issue with Shanahan is at the podium after the Rams game and is shocked there are no injuries to report.
Losers: Running backs not named McCaffrey
The 49ers don’t go out and trade what they did for CMC if they’re not consistently struggling to run the ball. I mentioned the big plays above. The running lanes have been there. This isn’t an offensive line issue.
It’s not as if teams are stacking the box, as the passing game has been efficient. This falls on the shoulders of the backs. San Francisco is 23rd in rushing DVOA. Across the board, this team is below average.
Elijah Mitchell didn’t make it out of the second quarter of Week 1. Rookies Jordan Mason and Ty Davis-Price clearly weren’t ready in the coach's eyes. Jeff Wilson is a fine player but not a lead-back.
Kyle Shanahan needs a complete back he can win with right away. The team’s rushing DVOA is up to 13th in two games since McCaffrey. The way he manipulates the defense, can break tackles, or just runs by you has already made a world of difference for the offense.