Scouting the opponent: Injuries have robbed 49ers of playmakers

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Bob McGinn

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By BOB McGINN

Three of the six games on Monday night this season have been one-sided affairs decided by 20 points or more.

The Green Bay-San Francisco game on Monday at Lambeau Field could be in keeping with the Saints’ 43-19 rout of the Redskins last Monday night.

“It’ll be bad for ‘Monday Night Football,’” an executive in personnel said Tuesday. “You hate to see two blowouts in a row on Monday night. But I’m thinking the chances are pretty good that San Fran’s not going to make a game of it.

“It’s got a good chance to be a little bit of a blowout. I’ll say, 28-14.”

The Packers
(2-2-1) are favored by 9 ½ points over the 49ers (1-4), who will be without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, probably their top two running backs and possibly two of their top three wide receivers.
“There’s no way in the world San Francisco is going to rally up enough to beat Green Bay,” the personnel man said. “Probably because offensively I don’t think they can establish anything. Green Bay will shut down the run and force (C.J.) Beathard to beat them in the air, and I don’t think he can do that.”
Beathard took over in Game 3 at Kansas City after Garoppolo, the former Patriot who went 5-0 for the 49ers down the stretch in 2017, suffered a season-ending knee injury on a sideline scramble.
With Beathard, the 49ers lost at the Chargers, 29-27, and at home against winless Arizona, 28-18.
“San Francisco is lacking some of its playmakers and playing with a young quarterback that is more of a game manager,” an NFC personnel director said. “I think Green Bay will score enough where San Francisco will have to be in catch-up mode.
“San Francisco may take a page from Detroit and try to control the ball by running it and playing good defense. But I don’t think that is the mindset of the 49ers’ play-caller (coach Kyle Shanahan).”
That scout called it for Green Bay, 38-17, partially because of its 31-23 loss to the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.
“Green Bay will have a sense of urgency after a disappointing loss,” he said. “They have to keep pace with Chicago, get the offense going and the defense playing more consistently.”
A third scout has the Packers winning big, 38-6.

“I see an angry Green Bay team responding at home in prime time after not playing close to their best in Detroit,” the AFC personnel man said. “Yet, they still would have won if (Mason) Crosby doesn’t have the worst game of his career.
“I have no idea how San Francisco can even (compete) without Jimmy G, let alone Matt Breida and Dante Pettis. It’s hard enough in this league to find one quarterback, let alone another who can even remotely carry the team if your No. 1 guy goes down.
“To me, your team gets a mulligan for the season unless you have one of the three or four best backup quarterbacks in the league. Not many people want to hear that, especially owners, but may God strike me dead if it isn’t true.”
The AFC executive concluded with this: “Green Bay should win big. But if they go in the tank and somehow give this one up, things could start to go south in Titletown in a hurry.”

OFFENSIVE SCHEME
Coordinator – Coach Kyle Shanahan (second year) acts as his own coordinator and calls the plays.
Key assistant coaches – John Benton, offensive line; Robert Turner, running backs.
Notes: Shanahan served as coordinator at Houston (2008-’09), Washington (2010-’13), Cleveland (2014 under Mike Pettine) and Atlanta (2015-’16) before being named to replace Chip Kelly in January 2017. He runs a traditional two-back offense with the quarterback largely under center. The trademark of his passing game is utilization of the running backs, an elaborate set of screens and constant misdirection. For the ground game, he likes to run power and pull a lineman. The 49ers rank 15th in yards (378.0), tied for 15th in points (23.6) and 31st in giveaways (11).
What scouts say: “I always liked (Shanahan) as a playcaller. He had most of his success in Atlanta spreading people out and running his version of the West Coast. There were a lot of tweaks to it. It’s kind of the updated version of the West Coast offense. He still has a lot of what his dad (Mike) did.”

WIDE RECEIVERS
Starters – Pierre Garcon (6-0, 211, 4.42 before the draft in 2008); Marquise Goodwin (5-9, 180, 4.23) or Victor Bolden (5-8 ½, 178, 4.55).
Key backups – Trent Taylor (5-8, 180, 4.61); Kendrick Bourne (6-1, 203, 4.61); Richie James (5-10, 185, 4.56).
Notes: Goodwin, the top target, sat out the last game with a hamstring-thigh issue. Rookie Dante Pettis, a second-round pick, has been ruled out of a second straight game because of a knee injury. Garcon, 32, has 620 catches for a 12.5 average and 37 touchdowns for the Colts, Redskins and 49ers. Taylor, the slot receiver, joins Garcon atop the WR reception list with 16. Bolden, who returned last week after serving a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, and Bourne weren’t drafted in 2017. James was a seventh-round pick in April.
What scouts say: “That’s too bad about Pettis. I like him. They’re definitely going to miss Goodwin. He’s their most explosive guy.” … “Garcon is thick and strong and competitive. He has good hands, not great. He’s not nearly as explosive as he used to be. He’s not the Garcon you remember in Indy or Washington where he was just a tough son of a gun to (handle). He’s almost built like a running back.” … “Trent Taylor is a little dude. He’s not as talented as the (top) slots but he does have good short-area quickness and OK hands. He can make you miss after the catch but he’s not a shake and bake guy. You don’t feel threatened by him.” … “Bourne runs nice routes and has real good hands.” … “James is like Taylor, a slot receiver, but he has better speed. Pretty athletic. Beats you with quickness.”

TIGHT ENDS
Starters – George Kittle (6-4, 250, 4.55).
Key backup – Garrett Celek (6-4 ½, 252, 4.73).
Notes: Kittle was a fifth-round pick from Iowa in 2017. Besides a fast 40, he has a 38 ½-inch vertical jump, an 11-0 broad jump and a score of 35 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. He leads the club in receiving yards with 399 (17.3), a total surpassed by just two tight ends: Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz (437) and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce (407). Celek had 21 receptions as a 13-game starter last season.
What scouts say: “Kittle is having a pretty good year. He caught the ball well and just plays so hard. He’s not a smooth runner. He’s like a bull in a china shop. His numbers were so athletic. He just looked tall and thin in college. He’s filled out now.” … “Celek is just average. The other Celek (former Eagle Brent) was pretty talented.”

OFFENSIVE LINE
Starters – LT Joe Staley (6-6, 295, 4.82); LG Laken Tomlinson (6-3 ½, 312, 5.26); C Weston Richburg (6-3 ½, 290, 5.10); RG Mike Person (6-4 ½, 300, 5.12); RT Mike McGlinchey (6-8, 315, no time).
Key backups – C Erik Magnuson (6-4 ½, 305, 5.37); T Garry Gilliam (6-5 ½, 305, 5.02).
Notes: Staley was voted to the Pro Bowl from 2011-’15. He, McGlinchey, Richburg and Person are playing through knee injuries. McGlinchey was the ninth pick in the 2018 draft. The Lions drafted Tomlinson with the 28th pick in 2015 but then traded him in August 2017 for a fifth-round choice. Richburg, a four-year starter for the Giants, arrived in March with a five-year, $47.5 million ($28.5M guaranteed) deal. Person, 30, is with his sixth team and has made just 23 career starts. Richburg sat out the last 13 snaps Sunday when his knee acted up; Magnuson replaced him.
What scouts say: “Staley has been a little dinged up. If he plays, it puts them on a different level. Him being dependable, being the leader. He’s had games where he’s played at a Pro Bowl level. He’s a thin, dependable left tackle. He has good hands, and before all his injuries he had pretty good feet. He is really good matching and mirroring the movement of the rusher. At one point he was pretty special out there.” … “Tomlinson is a Duke guy. Little bit of a wide body. He’s a little bit better (blocking) for the run. He struggles to mirror athletic movement. He’s inconsistent with his finish. Just kind of ends the play too soon. ‘I did my job, OK, I’m good.’ He knows his assignments, but as a player or as an athlete he doesn’t live up to it.” … “I don’t think Richburg has great strength but he plays with good technique. He’s got better upper-body strength than he does anchor. He takes pretty good angles as a run blocker. He’s smart (Wonderlic of 31), and does a good job picking up stunts. Bottom line is you do question his size and strength against power.” … “I remember when Person was playing tight end. He’s a smart (Wonderlic of 24) guy and a good leader. He’s undersized and definitely will struggle with power. Best thing you can say about him is he knows what he’s doing. There’s not a lot of ability left there anymore.” … “McGlinchey looks like a power forward. Can be physical. Works hard to finish in the run but very average as a pass protector.” … “Magnuson has average size. He wins by locking out guys (34-inch arms). He’s not a guy with power and strength. If guys get into him they work him pretty good.”

QUARTERBACKS
Starter – C.J. Beathard (6-2 ½, 215, no 40).
Backup – Nick Mullens (6-1, 210, 4.92).
Notes: Beathard replaced Jimmy Garoppolo in Game 3 after the starter suffered a torn ACL. The 49ers drafted Beathard in the third round last year from Iowa, where he posted a 21-7 record. As a rookie, he went 1-6 as a starter with a passer rating of 69.2. This season, he ranks 28th at 80.2. Beathard scored 26 on the Wonderlic. One scout compared him to Kyle Orton. Mullens, signed as a free agent in 2017, spent last season on the practice squad. He started four seasons at Southern Mississippi. His Wonderlic was 18.
What scouts say: “C.J. is an average-sized guy but, man, is he competitive. Almost to a fault. He plays hard. Tries to make a play every down. He holds the ball way too long for his arm talent. He’s a smart quarterback but I think he gives himself too much credit as far as being able to extend and make plays. That’s when he gets himself in trouble. He’s had some success scrambling. He’d be a lot better off if he went through two reads and got rid of the ball. The longer he holds it, the more he gets himself in trouble. He doesn’t have great arm strength but he’s fairly accurate on the short and intermediate stuff. His deep stuff is questionable.” … “Mullens is interesting. He reminds you of a guy that should be playing up in Canada. He does have good accuracy and arm talent. He’s just a smaller guy. He is competitive and mobile. If he’s in there they should move the pocket.”

RUNNING BACKS
Starters – RB Alfred Morris (5-10, 222, 4.67) or Matt Breida (5-9, 190, 4.37); FB Kyle Juszczyk (6-1 ½, 240, 4.72).
Key backups – RB Raheem Mostert (5-10 ½, 197, 4.32).
Notes: The starter, former Viking Jerick McKinnon, blew out his knee in August. Breida, a second-year free agent from Georgia Southern, suffered a serious ankle sprain on his 13th snap Sunday and is doubtful. Breida leads the NFL in yards per rush (7.5) and ranks fifth in yards (369). Morris, the former Redskin-Cowboy, has 62 carries for 228 (3.7) and six receptions. The well-traveled Mostert is in his fourth season. The 49ers might add a back this week. When Juszczyk was drafted in the fourth round by the Ravens in 2013, he became the first draftee from Harvard since QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2005.
What scouts say: “It’s too bad because Breida does play hard.” … “Now you go to Alfred. There’s not a whole lot of versatility with Alfred. He’s best off just running downhill. He’ll be a one-cut, run-hard, try-to-spin-out-of-tackles guy. Just a steady, hang-on-to the-ball type guy. He can get you the 20-, 30-yard run but never will break the long one. Doesn’t have that type of speed.” … “Mostert was a little bit of a freak coming out of (Purdue) because he was so fast. He was a kick returner more than anything when he got in the league. Then people just started finding a role for him. If he has to play it’s out of necessity. His biggest attribute is, if he hits a crease he can split it and outrun everybody.” … “Juszczyk is really dangerous as a receiver. Solid blocker. Runs hard. Outstanding hands.”

DEFENSIVE SCHEME
Coordinator – Robert Saleh (second year).
Key assistant coaches – Johnny Holland, run game specialist/outside linebackers; Jeff Zgonina, defensive line.
Notes: Saleh, 39, entered the NFL in 2005 as a coaching intern on coach Dom Capers’ staff in Houston. He spent three seasons (2011-’13) in quality control for the Seahawks under Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley before following Bradley to Jacksonville as linebackers coach. On Sept. 30, Saleh went against form and pressured Chargers QB Philip Rivers heavily in a 29-27 loss. It’s a Seahawk type scheme with a one-gap, attacking front and usually an extra player in the box. Holland, 53, played linebacker for the Packers from 1987-’93 and coached for them from 1995-’99. Since then, he has been an assistant for the Seahawks, Lions, Texans, Raiders and Browns. He also spent one year in the UFL and three in the CFL. The 49ers rank 11th in yards (348.4), 29th in points (26.2) and 32nd in takeaways (three).
What scouts say: “Saleh was with Gus and Pete. He’s got four guys up front who can get after you a little bit. He’s got a pretty good front four. The ultimate goal in Seattle was to shut down the run and make them throw. He’s Cover 3 base. Then they’ll go press and bail out and get into Cover 3 as well. It’ll look like man as part of the disguise and then they’ll get into a zone.”

DEFENSIVE LINE
Starters – LE Arik Armstead (6-7, 292, 5.10); LT DeForest Buckner (6-7, 300, 5.04); RT Earl Mitchell (6-1 ½, 310, 4.74); RE Solomon Thomas (6-2 ½, 280, 4.70).
Key backups – DE Cassius Marsh (6-4, 245, 4.80); DT Sheldon Day (6-0 ½, 294, 5.10); DE Ronald Blair (6-2, 270, 4.95); DE Ryan Delaire (6-4, 260, 4.88).
Notes: Armstead, Buckner and Thomas all were drafted in the first round by San Francisco in the last four years. Mitchell has made 59 starts for three teams in a nine-year career. Marsh failed in Seattle and New England but has found new life as an edge rusher in San Francisco.
What scouts say: “Armstead and Buckner are the two Oregon guys that look like basketball players. Almost like bookends.” … “Armstead has pretty good footwork. Good strength. Inconsistent motor.” … “Buckner plays up-tempo. Plays hard. He’s inside because he takes on the double teams. He does all the grunt work. He could be really good if he got more one-on-one blocks. He gets a lot of doubles so he doesn’t show up as much.” … “Thomas is like a 270 (pound) guy. Effort guy and an athletic guy. He’s kind of their pass-rush guy more so than the others.” … “Marsh is in the mix because he’s a little different. He’s tatted up. He’s got red and green tats all over him. Little wild and crazy. Plays like a wild man. Slightly built. He’s a pretty good athlete and he’s got good quickness. He’s got to avoid the blocker getting his hands on him because then he’s done. He doesn’t have that type of strength where he can slap his hands down or rip through them. He has to beat them off the (ball) as a speed rusher.” … “Earl gets to be more of a wide body every time I see him. He’s more the nose tackle type. He’s more of the veteran, interior, run-stopping guy. He’s gotten thicker over the years.” … “Day’s thing is games, twists, stunts. If he just lines up and tries to beat someone he’s not very good. He’s got to be moving. Pretty good hand use as a pass rusher.”

LINEBACKERS
Starters – SLB Malcolm Smith (6-0, 225, 4.44); MLB Fred Warner (6-3 ½, 236, 4.65); WLB Reuben Foster (6-0, 228, 4.65).
Key backups – LB Elijah Lee (6-2 ½, 229, 4.72).
Notes: Warner, a third-round draft choice in April, and Foster, a first-round pick in 2017, played all 51 snaps Sunday against Arizona. Smith, 29, served as a nickel LB for the Seahawks’ best teams before starting for Oakland in 2015-’16.
What scouts say: “Fred Warner really should be a ‘sam’ or a ‘will.’ He’s more of a finesse player. He will get engulfed by big blockers. He’s got quick hands but not necessarily the strength to lock out and consistently ward off and shed. He is pretty athletic, and a lot more people are looking for athletic inside linebackers. In the grand scheme Fred is better off when he can move than he is taking on.” … “Reuben is like the poster child for bad guys but he does like football. That’s the only saving grace. He likes football. Unfortunately, he also likes getting into trouble. He’s more of a shorter, compact, run-and-hit guy. He likes to fly in there. He can make plays all over. On the negative side, he’s one of those guys who will bite the cheese, so to speak. If there’s play-action he may jump up in there and take the bite. You can fool him.” … “Malcolm was never the most instinctive guy but he was one of the fastest linebackers in the NFL at one point. He’s had a couple injuries that have slowed him down. He’s more athlete than he is instinctive. People keep trying to find places for him because of his movement and speed. The more you have him around the more you realize he’s not what you thought he was.”

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Starters – LC Richard Sherman (6-2 ½, 195, 4.54); RC Ahkello Witherspoon (6-2 ½, 195, 4.48) or Greg Mabin (6-0, 200, no 40); SS Jaquiski Tartt (6-1 ½, 215, 4.49); FS Adrian Colbert (6-0 ½, 205, 4.44).
Key backups – CB K’Waun Williams (5-9 ½, 185, 4.51); CB Jimmie Ward (5-10 ½, 193, 4.49); S Antone Exum (5-11 ½, 219, 4.55).
Notes: Sherman went the distance Sunday after missing Game 4 with a calf injury. Two days after being cut by Seattle he went to the 49ers in mid-March for $27 million ($3M guaranteed) over two years. Witherspoon, a third-round pick in ’17, rotates with Mabin, a second-year free agent. Williams, an undrafted player in 2014, was the slot nickel under Pettine in Cleveland from 2014-’15 and now for the 49ers for 1 ½ years. Colbert, a seventh-round pick in 2017, played mostly cornerback at Miami. Ward was inactive Sunday with a hamstring injury.
What scouts say: “Everybody kind of knows what ‘Sherm’ is. He was a receiver (at Stanford), and he plays corner like a receiver. So if you’re throwing the ball up against him he’s not a guy who will just try to defend the receiver. He’s going to become the receiver and play the ball. That’s how he rolls. He never had great speed because he’s a long strider. He has build-up speed. Now coming back from that Achilles (in 2017) and the calf, you probably should attack him deep because he’ll struggle keeping pace with people. I’d test him. Very instinctive. Thing that really gets him is off coverage against a shorter, quicker receiver that runs change-of-direction routes. In and out routes, out and up. He’s a leggy guy that takes time to gather.” … “For a big guy, Witherspoon won’t be as physical as you would like. He is a finesse guy who is at his best when you run a fade against him. He can run and he’s long. He’s a lot like Richard. When you have quick guys against him he struggles to change direction. You want to make him have to move instead of just running deep balls against him where he can run with you.” … “Mabin can match up and change direction. He’s a good, solid off corner more than being a press corner.” … “K’Waun is just a short, quick, competitive guy. Pretty much born to be a nickel. You would not want to play him outside. His strength is good quickness inside.” … “I like Tartt because he’s physical and has movement. Smaller-school guy (Samford). More of an enforcer-type guy than a center fielder. A better hitter than he is playing center field like a free safety would.” … “Adrian was kind of a corner convert to safety. More one of those bigger corners. Has good range as a free safety but is not physical. Definitely a finesse guy who can float side-to-side. He’s a little bit of a project.”

SPECIAL TEAMS
Coordinator – Richard Hightower (second year).
Personnel – K Robbie Gould (6-0, 190); P-KO Bradley Pinion (6-5, 240); LS Kyle Nelson (6-2, 240); KOR D.J. Reed (5-9, 188, 4.48); PR Trent Taylor.
Notes: Gould, 35, was cut by the Bears on Sept. 4, 2016 after 11 seasons. He had made 33 field-goal attempts in a row before missing from 45 Sunday in the fourth quarter. He has made 87% in his career, including 77.1% (27 of 35) from 50-plus. Pinion, a four-year regular, ranks 25th in net average (38.0). Reed ranks third on kickoffs with a 30.2 average. Taylor replaced Pettis returning punts.
What scouts say: “Robbie’s had a heck of a career. He’s won a lot of games with last-second field goals. He’s been pretty steady for a long time. I don’t know what his leg strength is now but his accuracy is pretty good.” … “It makes total sense that they have Pinion kick off and save Robbie Gould for field goals. I don’t think Robbie has the power leg.” … “D.J. Reed is more speed than anything else. He doesn’t scare me.” … “Taylor fields the ball more than returns the ball. He’s got a little bit of shake but he’s not a real return guy.”




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BobMcGinnFootball.com is an independent, member-based website dedicated to analysis, opinion and coverage of the Green Bay Packers and the National Football League draft. Our three writers have covered the NFL for more than 100 seasons combined.
 

TW

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The 49ers shouldn't be in this one from the start. Green Bay should hold them to no more than 10 points. They're that bad.

But, then again, we're talking about McCarthy's Packers, aren't we?

Packers 27 49ers 17
 

GBP4EVER

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The 49ers shouldn't be in this one from the start. Green Bay should hold them to no more than 10 points. They're that bad.

But, then again, we're talking about McCarthy's Packers, aren't we?

Packers 27 49ers 17
We said same thing about the Lions last week. IMO we have not seen the Packers play one game this year were they have dominated. They have in some form struggled every week. We saw last year without Rodgers we are a team without any real playmakers also.
 

dannobanano

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Fix the 1st half mistakes and they should be fine.
GB has dug themselves deep 1st half holes in 3 of 5 games and has only won one of those (Bears).

I worry about “wounded” teams like SF.

MM/AR need to be bringing it in the 1st half so they don’t give SF any hope.
 

TW

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We said same thing about the Lions last week. IMO we have not seen the Packers play one game this year were they have dominated. They have in some form struggled every week. We saw last year without Rodgers we are a team without any real playmakers also.
I picked the Lions to win last week. I was told (not here, elsewhere) that I was "lucky" because we would have won had Crosby hit those FGs.

It isn't luck. I picked them to win because no matter how you arrive at a score, it's because you see that team as winning, and by how much.

Instead of being pissed at me for being right, people should be asking why the hell the Packers can't put the ball in the end zone when they get close enough to go for a FG? What is missing from the Rodgers TD scoring prowess from the past? Do they have any idea?

I keep hearing how I'm a stuck record on this, but the missing thing is Jordy Nelson. He was the guy who created chaos because of his skills in the red zone, and even if he's using a walker, he was still our best damned red zone receiver. The guy that Rodgers could look to, and throw the ball, because he'd work himself open.

He's gone, but if we just "forget" that fact, it's a pass for McCarthy and his inept coaching, as well as the lack of what people bring to the table in the eyes of the front office.

To put it bluntly. We win that game going away with Jordy in Green and Gold.
 
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