"Thursday Night Football" feels like a lifetime ago, right? While the San Francisco 49ers have enjoyed extra time off, their Week 4 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, just got done playing "Monday Night Football".
The added rest should benefit San Francisco in the pursuit of its first win of 2017. The 49ers have fallen victim to back-to-back narrow losses against the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. At first glance, Week 4 should present another winnable matchup for the 49ers. Arizona is now 1-2 after falling to the Dallas Cowboys, 28-17, Monday night and is without superstar running back David Johnson for the foreseeable future.
Now it's time for this week's mailbag, covering the top storylines currently facing the 49ers.
DeForest Buckner has 16 quarterback pressures through three games, the most of any NFL interior defensive lineman per Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus. To me, that says that "DeFo" is due for a sack or two. If you watch his mic'd up piece, you can see just how close he was to taking down Russell Wilson on multiple occasions.
I'd also look to Aaron Lynch, who got the 49ers first of three sacks against the Seahawks. We all know that Lynch is a more-than-capable pass-rusher and is working to establish consistency. I'm not sure if it was matchup related, but Lynch only played 14 snaps against the Rams in Week 3. Whatever the case may be, the 49ers defense would benefit if Lynch can find some consistent production.
One final name is Elvis Dumervil. The veteran had his 100th career sack wiped out due to penalty against the Rams. He only plays on obvious passing downs, but he's shown he's still capable of getting to the quarterback.
Keeping with the same theme here, it's all about the 49ers pass-rush vs. the Cardinals banged up offensive line. Guard Alex Boone and tackle John Wetzel join fellow offensive linemen Mike Iupati and D.J. Humphries on Arizona's injured list. The banged up group allowed six sacks against the Cowboys on Monday night and should provide an opportunity for the 49ers pass rush to get going.
This feels like a similar storyline as the Seahawks game. The 49ers defense, which struggled to get to the quarterback the previous week, has a chance to play an underwhelming offensive line. The Cardinals have allowed 11 sacks. Conversely, San Francisco's defense has just three sacks. Something has to give.
The only way for Taylor's role to get bigger is if Kyle Shanahan decides to utilize three-receiver sets more. The rookie is the team's starting slot receiver and isn't splitting time with anyone. Taylor was also the target of two key throws in the fourth quarter – the first a 3-yard touchdown and the second on San Francisco's final drive. It's clear that both Shanahan and Pierre Garcon trust him already. He's also the team's starting punt returner.
As far as Robinson goes, he isn't a slot receiver. Shanahan said he prefers Aldrick on the outside as a second option behind Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. That's where he will see most of his playing time.
Guys like Patrick Peterson and Tryann Mathieu are no slouches against the pass, either. I'd guess the 49ers offensive attack will be balanced. Pierre Garcon has arguably been the 49ers best player through three games, which would make it unwise to dismiss the running game completely in the first quarter.
This is a great question. It's also one that might not have an answer yet. San Francisco's updated unofficial depth chart now has Solomon Thomas listed as a starter with Garrett Celek on Injured Reserve. However, nobody is listed behind Thomas. The 49ers used Carradine's roster spot on linebacker Mark Nzeocha. It can be assumed that Thomas will be in for a big workload against Arizona, but beyond that, it's a total guess.
Arik Armstead and Buckner might move around more than they have in previous weeks. Xavier Cooper, who was signed to be Buckner's backup, might also get reps at the "big end" spot. I'm sure that Robert Saleh will be asked about this very topic during his presser on Thursday.
Kyle Shanahan told us not to expect Foster to be back vs. Arizona. Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts could be possible, but no expected return date has been given just yet.
Has there been any conversation about playing J.Ward @ CB once the defensive backfield is all healthy? Reid SS Tartt FS Ward CB Robinson CB — Faithful For Life (@scienceguy49) September 26, 2017
No, and I don't expect there to be one. Dontae Johnson has been solid, and the 49ers view Ward as their best free safety. When everyone is healthy, I think San Francisco's coaching staff likes having Tartt as a versatile piece they can move around the field throughout a game.
Nope. Hoyer is the 49ers QB1 for the foreseeable future. A 332-yard performance against the Rams only helped his cause.
It's not over or OVER. Truthfully, we aren't even a quarter of the way through the season, and the NFC West is completely up for grabs. Based on the first three weeks of the season, I don't expect anyone to run away with the divisional crown. Currently, the Rams are in first place at 2-1 with the Seahawks and Cardinals at 1-2. It's also an easy argument that the 49ers could have beaten both Seattle and Los Angeles. The losses have put San Francisco in a hole, but it's not an insurmountable one.