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49ers Stock Report: Liabilities become strengths vs. Rams

Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


Just about everything worked for the 49ers on Sunday. They got back to the basics against a Los Angeles Rams and Sean McVay-coached team which seems to have an inferiority complex against them, resulting in a stellar first half, and a defensively brilliant third quarter which all but ended the game before the fourth even began. Here is your stock report.

Rising

The entire offensive line, especially Daniel Brunskill

Through five games, this offensive line was putrid. There was disjointed nature to the performances with the occasional miss in protections, double-team blocks not being held, rushers being thrown into fellow offensive linemen. It all felt highly individualistic, with those individual linemen often losing in pass protection, failing to hold their blocks in the run game and missing second-level blocks.

Those issues all faded into the ether on Sunday, as Jimmy Garoppolo was not sacked a single time and Aaron Donald was silenced, at least until after the game. Daniel Brunskill, who has allowed the most pressures and quarterback hits this season, and who struggled to both hold blocks and seal second-level blocks, was stellar, and lined up mostly against Donald.

Aside from getting beaten by Donald once, Mike McGlinchey was also fantastic. He was his usual imposing self in the run game and reliable in pass protection. Even Ben Garland looked more like himself before leaving late with a calf injury. There was cohesion, understanding and physicality on the line, and they imposed their will. That’s a must going forward.

Jason Verrett

For a man who had every opportunity to give up over the last four years, it’s only right that Verrett’s getting his redemption. He’s been nothing short of a lockdown corner as a starter in the last three weeks, and the interception he had (following a third-down pass breakup) was what Arik Armstead called the “biggest play of the season.”

Even while everything went wrong the last two weeks, he was not the issue, and he continues to look more and more confident each week, giving Richard Sherman more time to work on his recovery.

Fred Warner

This man is an All-Pro linebacker. Warner had seven combined tackles, tied for the team lead, but his coverage and presence made it seem like his total was double that. He consistently closed down outside runs, ranging with ease to either sideline, and brought down receivers short of the sticks following receptions. He’s flashing pressure and dropping into coverage seamlessly and is very clearly the most valuable player on this defense.

Kyle Shanahan

Shanahan got smart. He opened the game with easy plays to Raheem Mostert and so-called “passes” to his yards-after-catch guys, leaving Jimmy Garoppolo with an average depth of target of -0.6 after his first 10 completions. In other words, he took Garoppolo out of the game while simultaneously involving him in it.

He gave him those easy opportunities early, and when he did open it up for him (saying he opened it up is generous, given Garoppolo had just two throws of more than 20 yards), they were over the middle to George Kittle or in open space to Kendrick Bourne. They were intermediate or short, easily-completable opportunities that took the onus off Garoppolo.

And when the game needed to be iced, Shanahan finally relented, pulling Jerick McKinnon and giving JaMychal Hasty his shot with Raheem Mostert out. Hasty came in and had a first-down conversion in two plays before effectively ending it with a 10-yard run.

Kevin Givens

This man is a menace. If there was one defensive line player on either team who should be applauded for their performance on Sunday, it’s Givens. He didn’t have a tackle, but he ate up space in the run game and was a consistent threat to sack Jared Goff, forcing a throwaway, and getting three hurries while splitting his blockers with consistency. He’s the main source of interior pressure for this team right now.

Falling

Arik Armstead

This might be splitting hairs, because Armstead did not have a poor game. But he was not getting pressure with any sort of consistency and has just 1.5 sacks through six games now. It’s clear there are more sack opportunities to be had when there are multiple, consistent pass rushers, but there is an onus on Armstead to be the guy without Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. He’s cutting down angles in the run game, which is great, but you don’t give run-stopping edge players five years and $85 million. He needs to create more pressure.

Jerick McKinnon

This isn’t so much an indictment of McKinnon, because he has a play style that has its place in this offense. But it’s not as every-down back. He is the slowest running back in the NFL to the line of scrimmage by far, at 3.17 seconds (Melvin Gordon is second-slowest at 3.02 seconds), and this scheme is predicated on hitting the hole with speed. Raheem Mostert’s average is 2.93 seconds, which is tied for eighth-slowest, but when he hits the hole, it’s running full speed.

Mostert has been clocked as having the two fastest plays in the league this year, reaching 23.09 miles per hour and 22.73 miles per hour. McKinnon doesn’t have anywhere near Mostert’s speed, and relies on breaking tackles and avoiding contact, while Mostert runs through or speeds around defenders. It’s why, with Mostert out, and a need to secure the result, Shanahan tipped Hasty, who is the only back on the 49ers with comparable speed and ability to Mostert. It worked to the tune of nine carries for 37 yards (his 4.1 yards per carry average led the team) and two first downs, the last of which iced the game.

 

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