Does it feel strange to anyone else that the football season is upon us? Perhaps the canceled preseason has caused us to miss the teasing that begins with our collective football machines.
But Week 1 is officially here, with the Chiefs hosting Houston on Thursday and the 49ers playing the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday inside an empty Levi’s Stadium. So we get to our first mailbag on a regular basis, right?
Jake asks: Last year it seemed the Cardinals threw a lot of quick reading and Kyler Murray’s Athleticism to neutralize the elite among the Niners. Can you think of the same game game used in week 1 and a more experienced Murray?
Yes, I expect the Cardinals to use a lot of “quick play” against the 49ers by spreading and removing the ball from Murray’s hands to prevent Nick Bosa and Dee Ford from dropping a deep drop .
Last year was a mixed bag for the 49ers defense against No. 1 pick. There was a Halloween game where Murray averaged a season-best of 10.04 yards per attempt. Some factors are playing.
That game was played in a short week following the drubbing of the Panthers. A leak from the defense seems to have given the team a 7-0 improvement over last week – and Murray’s numbers were greatly helped by 88-yard chasing Andy Isabella in the fourth quarter.
Things tightened two weeks later when San Francisco played in Arizona following an annoying overtime loss to the Seahawks. The 49ers held Murray to a season-low 4.55 yards per attempt in the final win capped by a touchdown catch and run by Jeff Wilson Jr. The defense is sharper and wants to bounce back from the Halloween performance, which some defenders have called the worst of the season up to that point.
Which one will we get on Sunday? I would like to tell you. That uncertainty adds to the intrigue of the opener.
Charles asks: In some cover slots, do you see us carrying a vet receiver, Mohamed Sanu, who is potential? Great fit, Kyle’s offense ran before. Bringing Emmanuel Sanders last year took us to that hump.
I think the 49ers want to see firsthand what they have in their current team. And, honestly, Sanu is on fire in New England, to me, a lot is being said about its value right now.
The Patriots need all the weapons they can get for Cam Newton and the fact that they are willing to move from Sanu after exchanging a second round next year means he may not be very good anymore.
Despite injury issues during camp training, it seems Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) and Deebo Samuel (broken leg) will be available at some point this month, even if they are not playing in the opener. Aiyuk has been the best camp of any rookie receiver since I started covering the team in 2013.
With potentially top four Samuel, Aiyuk, Trent Taylor and Kendrick Bourne, the 49ers could have a better reception corps than many expect to come in time. Health is obviously a wild card here. General manager John Lynch said last week.
Matt asks: SF offense is ranked only No. 20 for red zone offenses. Do the additions of Jordan Reed, Trent Taylor and Jet (Jerick McKinnon) give us much better in this area?
That’s what the team thinks. Reed, during his best season, had 11 and six touchdown catches in Washington in 2015 and 2016, more than any 49er pass catcher in 2019 (both George Kittle and Bourne led the team with five ). And Taylor was one of Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite targets in key situations in 2017.
McKinnon is a wild card of guilt. If he was anything close to his pre-injury form, I would not be surprised if he would play a significant role in the offense, perhaps derived from Tevin Coleman as No. 2 running back.
Remember, the 49ers also have a big offense play. Twenty of their 56 touchdowns last season went 21 yards or longer, meaning they did not reach the red zone in possession. Although it is difficult to say if their red zone efficiency numbers would be better if they had.
Erick asks: Will Javon Kinlaw’s rookie season be a splash or bust?
I am not a fan of speaking fully. But if you expect Kinlaw to become DeForest Buckner right away, you will probably be left with less, maybe even bigger by 2020.
But if you are willing to accept Kinlaw as a running player before emerging as a more refined pass rusher in 2021 and 2022, then I think you will enjoy him this season.
Kinlaw is big and strong. His teammates revealed about his willingness to find out and he admitted during training camp that he did not think he played well at all. Remember, Buckner is a unique case. Not many interior defensive linemen come in and play right away at a high level.
The 49ers are more likely to be counted on replacing Buckner by taking production from in-depth people like Solomon Thomas, DJ Jones and Kentavius Street (who have a very good camp).
Berserker asks: It seems the prevailing wisdom is that Emmanuel Moseley will start the year as a starter opposite Sherm. If that is true, how long will it take for a rope to reach E-Man?
Quite a long time, I guess, even the coaching staff did not shy away from pulling people out of the farm if they were torched. But Moseley is known for being resilient, not up and down, like Ahkello Witherspoon.
There is also a new position coach to be included. We don’t know how new second coach Tony Oden will handle his team. Joe Woods, the passing coordinator of the game last year, had no problem saving Witherspoon on Sunday 17th or in the divisional round after giving the long chase to Stefon Diggs.
Tony asks: Let’s hear your best guess at the inactive for week 1. I feel like writers hate this question.
Here is a little secret. Beat writers enjoy guessing the inactive. Although it is not something they do in public. Some make their lists on Friday practices based on attending a week. Others pre-write their inactive blog posts before games.
They do not do this in public because it is not a good idea to think about injuries. The upside is minimal and the downside is wrong and having ownership up to it.
That said, I do to prevent making any predictions about being inactive here. We will have a better idea when we conduct attendance training on Wednesday.
But here’s the good news for the 49ers: Bosa and Ford are back on the field Monday, as are fullbacks Kyle Juszczyk and Taylor.
Still identifying: center Ben Garland, Aiyuk, Samuel, and Fred Warner, who will remain on the reserve list / COVID-19 Monday August 3. Wednesday is nine days from being on the list, and Warner must pass three consecutive review before returning to the team.
All the team thinks the public can say about Warner is whether he is on the list or not. As of this writing, he is already on the list, so the 49ers should prepare so he doesn’t have a Sunday.