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5 players to watch: Mike McGlinchey and the OL will be challenged

McGlinchey has been superb during the second half of the season

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers put their seven-game win streak on the line on Saturday as they host the 7-6-1 Washington Commanders in what could be a preview of Wild Card weekend. It’s the first time since 2014 that Washington has played at Levi’s Stadium, with the 2020 49ers home game between the two being held in Arizona. Javon Kinlaw could return on Saturday, which makes him a player to watch:

DT Javon Kinlaw

When Kinlaw was asked if he expects to play on Saturday, he responded, “Me, personally, I do.” The 49ers opened his practice window on Tuesday as well, and with Kinlaw practicing on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a knee injury back in Week 3.

If he is able to go on Saturday against Washington, it’ll be a huge boost to a defense that’s been on a roll in recent months. If anything, Kinlaw adds depth to an already deep interior defensive line that saw Arik Armstead return just a few weeks ago.

RT Mike McGlinchey

Just like the 49ers, the Commanders could see their 2020 first-round pick return from injury. After tearing his ACL in November of last season, Chase Young could make his 2022 debut against the 49ers. In his 24 career games, Young has nine sacks, with 7.5 coming in his rookie season, earning him Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020.

He’ll be a good test for Mike McGlinchey, who’s been in good form the past month or so. He’s allowed just seven pressures since Week 8.

LG Aaron Banks

As good as the Commanders’ edge rushers are, their two interior defensive linemen might be even better. Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have combined for 16 of the teams' 34 sacks on the season while also combining for a third of the team's total pressures.

Banks will likely see more of Allen, with Allen taking 67 percent of his snaps at the right defensive tackle, across from the left guard. Washington’s line should prove to be a good stress test for the 49ers' offensive line as they gear up for their postseason run.

RB Christian McCaffrey

When the 49ers first acquired McCaffrey, it was thought he’d join the other 49er's weapons in a pick-your-poison-type situation. As it turns out, McCaffrey is just a forced poison before opposing teams pick their secondary poison in the other weapons. McCaffrey already leads the 49ers on the season with 156 touches despite missing the 49ers' first six games of the season. The offense against Seattle last week ran through McCaffrey, who saw 32 of the offense’s 47 total touches. Expect another heavy workload for McCaffrey on Saturday.

CB Charvarius Ward

Ward has become one of if not the most important players on the 49ers' defense of late. He’s been tasked with receivers like DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Evans, and DK Metcalf, yet has only been responsible for one touchdown since Week 8 on 36 targets. Saturday, he’ll have another tough matchup with Terry McLaurin, who leads the Commanders in virtually all receiving stats.

The 49ers' pass defense has been a large reason for the success of the entire defense, allowing more than 250 yards passing in a game this season just twice. McLaurin will be a threat, but there’s plenty of trust in Ward to take away Washington’s top target.