Four Downs: Players to Watch When 49ers Visit Seahawks in Week 3

Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics in the San Francisco 49ers first divisional road game of the 2016 regular season against the Seattle Seahawks.

Let's get to what you should look forward to in this "Four Downs" update, presented by SunPower.

1st Down: What is the game's best matchup?@Joe_Fann: Eric Reid vs. Russell Wilson

Per Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus, Reid is their top-ranked safety through two weeks. San Francisco's versatile defensive back has recorded three quarterback hits and has allowed just 16 yards in pass coverage. Reid continues to thrive in Jim O'Neil's system that the safety has repeatedly deemed, the best scheme he's ever played in. On the other side of the line of scrimmage is Wilson. The Seahawks quarterback has engineered just one touchdown drive this season. Seattle will be eager to get their offense going on Sunday.

@TaylorPrice: Trent Brown vs. Michael Bennett

San Francisco's second-year right tackle has blossomed in 2016. Brown's progress will be under the microscope when he faces Seattle's top pass-rusher. Bennett lines up on the left side of Seattle's four-man defensive front. He's also second on the team with two sacks. Bennett recorded 3.5 sacks in the first 49ers-Seahawks meeting last year. It's up to Brown to use his 6-foot-8 frame to keep Bennett away from Blaine Gabbert. San Francisco's offensive line has allowed just two sacks this season. Seattle's defense will look to increase the statistic this week. Bennett's presence also frees up teammates to get pressure. Second-year defensive lineman Frank Clark leads Seattle with three sacks on the year.

2nd Down: What position group has to play well?

@Joe_Fann: Outside linebackers

Even though the 49ers defense should approach the game like Wilson is fully healthy, it's hard to imagine that the quarterback's ankle is 100 percent. Ndamukong Suh stepped on Wilson's ankle in Week 1, and he hasn't been right since. The Los Angeles Rams sacked Wilson twice in Week 2 and tallied nine quarterback hits. Seattle's offense will be limited if Wilson isn't his usual mobile self. That means it's even more crucial for San Francisco's pass-rushers to get into the backfield with consistent pressure. The group did so in Week 1 against Case Keenum, but struggled to get to Cam Newton in Week 2. Look for the outside linebacker to play a huge role in defending the Seahawks offense.

@TaylorPrice: Running backs

You can add offensive line to this category as well. Pierre Garçon said he aims to run the ball more patiently in Week 3. The young runner will look to get back to his season-opening ways. Hyde produced 88 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in Week 1. The third-year runner followed up the performance with a 14-carry, 34-yard outing against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. It's important to note Hyde wasn't a factor in the 2015 meetings between San Francisco and Seattle. Hyde played with a foot injury and rushed 11 times for 40 yards in what turned out to be his last game of the year. A healthy Hyde gives the 49ers an added weapon in this year's first NFC West road game.

3rd Down: Who will be an unsung hero?

@Joe_Fann: Garrett Celek

Everyone has known for years that Seattle boasts an impressive secondary. But if the talented defensive backfield has one blemish, it might be their ability to cover tight ends. The Seahawks have been susceptible to big plays from tight ends over the past year. Rams tight end Lance Kendricks posted a 44-yard reception just last Week against Seattle. Last season, Garrett Celek scored his first career touchdown in Seattle and caught all four of his targets for 65 yards. I like Celek as a sneaky bet to make an impact on this game. Sure, McDonald has two scores on the year, but Celek has one more target through two games and sees nearly identical playing time.

@TaylorPrice: Jeremy Kerley

The slot receiver gives the 49ers multiple ways to impact Sunday's game. As a pass-catcher, Kerley has built a strong rapport with Gabbert. He's caught 10 passes for 90 yards so far on the year. It's quite the impact considering how much he was involved last season for the New York Jets. Kerley had 16 catches for 152 yards in all of 2015. The 5-foot-9, 188-pound wideout can also produce game-changing plays in the punt-return game. Look for Kerley to continue to make plays when the ball comes his way.

4th Down: What is your bold prediction?

@Joe_Fann: Eli Harold gets a sack/fumble

I finally nailed a bold prediction thanks to Torrey Smith's touchdown in Carolina. Now back to Harold, who has been a popular name in this weekly series. Not only do I think he gets his first career sack, I'm betting he does it in style and forces a fumble at the same time. Nobody wants to see Harold sack Wilson more than the linebacker himself. Especially if Seattle's signal-caller is limited in any way, I think this could be the game for San Francisco's 2015 third-round pick.

@TaylorPrice: Vance McDonald makes it three in a row

The 49ers tight end has caught back-to-back touchdown passes to open the year. He also hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert in last year's Week 11 loss in Seattle. McDonald has caught three of his five targets this year for 89 yards and the two aforementioned scores. McDonald showed his dynamic ability with a 75-yard catch and score last week in Carolina. I'd expect the 49ers to find more ways to get the ball to No. 89 against a Seattle defense that gave up four catches for 61 yards last week to Kendricks.

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