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2 X-factors on both sides of the ball: Expect Lenoir to be tested early and often

On the other side of the ball, it comes down to Christian McCaffrey’s backup

New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The stars will be all over the field on both sides of the ball between the 49ers and the Dolphins. While all of the focus will be on Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle, here are two X-Factors on both sides of the ball for the Niners.

Can Lenoir hold his own?

Deommodore Lenoir

Lenoir has been solid since taking over the outside corner spot opposite Mooney Ward. However, this week presents a different challenge with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle coming to town. Ward can be relied on as he usually stays on the right side of the field.

Will the Dolphins test Lenoir with their speed? DeMeco Ryans may have to shade extra help his way. Ryans has crafted game plans to help his younger players out in the past. The overtime victory over the Bengals in 2021 immediately comes to mind. Ambry Thomas was helped with more cover three looks to combat the trio of Bengals receivers.

The chess match between Ryans and Mike McDaniel will be intriguing. Both know each other’s tendencies. McDaniel has been good at identifying places to attack. The 49ers’ defense is stout at each level. However, cornerback took a step back with the injuries to Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett.

Sunday will be Lenoir’s biggest test.

Will McCaffrey shoulder the load?

The “Backup” RB

Jordan Mason? TDP? Tevin Coleman?

The reason this answer isn’t one player is the role they occupy. Elijah Mitchell is down for another six to eight weeks. Mason closed out Sunday’s game against the Saints. Since making the 53, Mason has been active nearly every gameday due to his special teams contributions.

Jimmy Garoppolo slipped up a bit during his press conference, saying he’s excited to see Mason for an entire game. Christian McCaffrey confirmed he is good to go for Sunday. One would imagine his reps will be limited due to his “knee irritation.”

The 49ers’ defense will be tasked with slowing down this Miami attack. I would argue the offense has a role in slowing them down. This feels like the perfect game for eight to ten-minute drives. Provided they result in touchdowns and not field goals.

Will we finally see Ty Davis-Price activated? He ran pretty well in Week 2 against Seattle. His third-round draft capital would suggest he’ll get the call on Sunday.

Will Shanahan get back to one of “his guys?” Tevin Coleman has been sitting on the practice squad. Coleman was a force in Carolina. Shanahan may value his pass protection.

Running the ball is always a point of emphasis for Shanahan. Sunday, it may have to be the reason the offense closes out a victory. Keeping Miami’s offense on the sideline while helping McCaffrey through this week injury-free is the goal.

The question will be: Who will get the call?