It’s been a frustrating month for the San Francisco 49ers. Although there have been a number of positives through four games, the reality is that moral victories carry little water with an 0-4 record.
This week’s mailbag features an early-season evaluation now that the 49ers are a quarter of the way through 2017.
Kyle Shanahan went into great depth on this subject on Monday. The short answer is that Shanahan hasn’t considered making a move at quarterback.
However, San Francisco’s head coach explained that he wouldn’t hesitate in making a change if he felt like it were in the best interest of the team. Hoyer still gives the 49ers the best chance to win at this point.
“I think (Hoyer) needs to play better, and I think we need to play better around him," Shanahan said. "It's similar to what I said (on Sunday), when you have the time and you've got guys open, you need to hit them. And I thought he struggled with that at times last night, which I know he can do better, and he does also.”
The backup quarterback is always the most popular guy in town when a team is losing. That’s especially true when it’s a rookie who showed some promise during the preseason. C.J. Beathard may get his chance at some point this season, but right now, Shanahan thinks making a change would be “drastic”.
If we were talking about Reuben Foster’s shoulder, then maybe I’d give it some thought, but it’s a high-ankle sprain. Winning or losing, getting Foster game reps will be essential to his growth as a player. You want Foster to get through his lumps and rookie mistakes this year so that he’s not playing catch-up in 2018.
Rest assured that the 49ers will not run Foster back onto the field until everyone in the building is 100 percent sure that he’s back to full strength. There’s lots of season left for the Faithful to enjoy watching San Francisco’s first-round linebacker. Foster’s return isn’t likely to be this week against the Indianapolis Colts, but he could play in Week 6 against the Washington Redskins.
As I understand it, Juszczyk’s involvement in the passing game will vary on a week-to-week basis. It’s all matchup dependent. The 49ers have shown full confidence to go to Juszczyk in big moments. Shanahan called a fullback dive on fourth down in Week 1. On Sunday, Juszczyk's number was called in overtime, and he gained eight yards on 3rd-and-4. He caught a pass later in the same drive.
While Juszczyk hasn’t seen a high-volume of touches, he’s been a fantastic lead blocker in the run game. “Offensive weapon” or not, Juszczyk is still showing that he’s one heck of a fullback.
Rashard Robinson isn’t going anywhere. He will remain in San Francisco’s starting lineup as he works through the growing pains of being a young cornerback. Robinson’s play has been inconsistent and he’s been called for too many penalties, but it’s far too soon to give up on the athletic 22-year-old.
Should Robert Saleh decide that a change needs to be made, Asa Jackson would be the next man up. Jackson replaced Robinson for one play in Week 4 when Robinson went out due to injury.
Saleh has explained that the defense is designed to keep everything in front and limit explosive plays. The thinking is that a team is rarely going to march down the field and score touchdowns on 5-yard completions. I think that’s why you’ve seen the 49ers defense bend but not break quite a bit through four games.
That’s not to say there haven’t been missed assignments in the secondary, but it’s an explanation if you feel like you’re seeing the 5-yard cushion on every play.
How about T.Y. Hilton against Robinson? The Colts star wide receiver will provide another challenge for the 49ers top corner.
I don’t think you’re being foolish. The 49ers are eight points away from being 3-1. That’s not to say that they should be 3-1, but rather to point out just how small the margin between winning and losing can be in the NFL. There are signs of progress in San Francisco, now it’s about getting a young team to learn how to win close games.