After three weeks of play, the 49ers have had some surprising performances from players, good and bad. Three weeks is hardly a sample size large enough to draw definitive conclusions, but let’s take a look at three players whose stock is up and whose stock is down.
The biggest surprise through three weeks has been Javon Kinlaw. Currently, Kinlaw is third on the team with ten pressures and tied for first with Javon Hargrave with ten hurries per PFF. What makes it even more impressive is that Kinlaw has played 72 snaps with 62 snaps as a pass rusher. Once thought of as a run stuffer, Kinlaw has turned into a situational pass rusher, and his emergence has only strengthened this defensive line.
Lastly, Kinlaw is the fifth-highest-graded defensive player at 85.3. Three weeks isn’t a full season, but the 49ers have to be delighted with Kinlaw’s production and hopefully, in a situational role, can sustain that production for 17 games.
Tashaun Gipson Sr.
Gipson is often forgotten when running down the 49ers defense and high-end players, but Gipson quietly has been as impressive as anyone defending the pass. In three weeks, Gipson has been targeted four times and allowed two catches and six yards in coverage.
In 151 coverage snaps, Gipson is the second highest-graded member of the secondary at 77.1. Gipson has been great to begin the season.
Kyle Shanahan spoke about how fortunate the 49ers were to have Gipson after last week’s game:
“Oh, he has been great. So fortunate to get him. We got him at the end of preseason last year and what he did for us last year coming in and playing safety, what you’re talking about in third downs and stuff and our man coverages. He goes up and guards the tight end and challenges those guys and tries to guard them like corners do. So, he’s been great and he has been a sure tackler also. So, I feel very fortunate to have Gip. You see how he is on the field, but even off the field, we call him the dad back there because he’s the most mature one. He’s so consistent every single day and he really is one of the leaders for us too.”
It seems silly to place the starting quarterback in this section, but coming off UCL surgery to play as well as Purdy has is impressive. The offense has scored 30 points every game, and Thursday’s performance was Purdy’s best passing yard total of his short career. The Giants relentlessly blitzed Purdy, and he responded with better play as the game went on.
Purdy’s three-week totals are 61/91, 67 completion percentage, 736 passing yards, 8.1 yards per attempt, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Quite the start for the young man in 2023.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a great three-week start for the second-year guard. Burford is the lowest-graded offensive lineman at 37.3. In 107 pass-blocking snaps, Burford has a pass-blocking grade of 7.6. A second-year leap was expected for Burford after Kyle Shanahan rotated in Daniel Brunskill last season to keep Burford from becoming overwhelmed in his first year.
Burford leads the team with 11 pressures allowed and 10 hurries allowed. Still, there is plenty of time in the season to improve, but this week would be best with a Week 5 matchup against Dallas coming.
After an impressive preseason, Thomas has struggled with coverage and injuries. Thomas has been targeted ten times and allowed nine catches. Injuries haven’t helped as Thomas was in and out of the first two games before missing Week 3.
Thomas still has a vital role for this team as depth, and helping Steve Wilks and the defense remain flexible while Deommodore Lenoir kicks inside to the slot at certain points. Isaiah Oliver has come on of late, but Thomas will be counted on at some point to contribute.
Brendel was very solid in his first two games as a blocker. This week, Brendel had issues delivering clean snaps in shotgun to Purdy, and due to the Giants’ assault on the offensive line with blitzes, now has given up six hurries, seven pressures, and a QB hit.
Brendel’s overall pass-blocking grade sits at 33.3. Coming out of Thursday’s game, it wasn’t one of Brendel’s better performances.