After their (41-17) blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Francisco 49ers, are currently sitting at (2-0) for the first time since 2012, and are tied for first place in the NFC West. What makes the 49ers start even more impressive, is not only the fact that have done it on the road where they went (0-8) last season, but the wins have come against two teams in the Eastern time zone.
With a Week 3 contest coming up this Sunday against the (0-2) Pittsburgh Steelers, who will be without Quarterback and future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger, and potentially starting Running Back James Conner as well, the chances of San Francisco remaining undefeated, are considerably high.In their wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Bengals, the team has been impressive on both sides of the ball. Compared to last season where the team’s defense registered a league low seven takeaways, and 37 sacks, which placed them in the bottom eight of the league, this year’s unit appears more than ready to blow those numbers out the water, as they have already produced five and seven respectively so far.
On offense, the 49ers currently rank seventh overall, with 72 points scored, which translates to 36 points per game. The key to their success so far, can be attributed to the run game led by Running Backs Matt Brieda and Raheem Mostert, which has seen the 49ers average over 178 yards a game, and 4.8 yards a carry. More importantly, the team sits third in the league in rushing, with 357 yards. After much hand-wringing by 49ers fans after a mostly uninspiring pre-season from Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the team’s franchise passer has been solid, completing 35 of 52 passes for 463 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, while he works his way back from a torn left ACL, suffered last season.
Not everything is rosy in the city by the bay, as injuries have once again come back to bite the franchise. After losing a total of 34 players to Injured Reserved the last two years according to Sportac, this year’s squad has already lost six members of the team to I.R. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse health wise, starting Left Tackle Joe Staley suffered a broken left fibula, in Sunday’s win versus the Bengals. While the longest serving member of the team won’t be the seventh 49er lost for the year, the twelve-year veteran is expected to miss six to eight weeks.
At this stage of the game, the free agent options to replace the six-time Pro Bowler are pretty slim to say the least:
1) Sam Young
Games Played: 88 … Games Started: 21
He was signed by the 49ers this pre-season, but waived during the teams final cuts on August 30 th . The 32 year-old visited the team on Tuesday, but left without a contract.
2) Jeremy Parnell
Games Played: 111 … Games Started: 64
Strictly a Right Tackle, Parnell, has been a free agent since he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, this past March. The veteran has playoff experience from his time with both the Dallas Cowboys, and the Jags. He was also a member of the practice squad of the New Orleans Saints team who won Super Bowl XLIV. Signing him, would allow the 49ers to move current RT Mike McGlinchey, over to Left Tackle until Staley returns.
3) Joe Barksdale
Games Played: 106 … Games Started: 78
The former third round pick of the Oakland Raiders, has started for three teams over the course of his eight year career. His last stop was with the Arizona Cardinals last December, where he was signed to replaced injured starting Left Tackle D.J. Humphries. A serviceable Tackle, Barksdale, has playoff experience from his time with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.
San Francisco has two in-house candidates to replace the anchor of the Offensive Line. The first is rookie 6 th round pick Justin Skule, The four-year starter at Vanderbilt, played 19 snaps in relief of Staley against Cincinnati. Head Coach Mike Shanahan, said Skule will start this Sunday against the Steelers.
Option number two, is Daniel Brunskill. The San Diego State product has yet to play a regular season game for the 49ers, but he did start at Left Tackle for the San Diego Fleet of the now defunct American Alliance of Football (AFF) earlier this year. While the franchise is surely grateful that the Staley injury occurred now instead of at the end of the regular season, it still doesn’t help that over the next two months, the 49ers will play the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, and the aforementioned Steelers, who posses pass rush specialists in the form of Pro Bowlers Myles Garrett, Aaron Donald, Jadeveon Clowney, Chandler Jones, Terrell Suggs, T.J Watt, and Cameron Heyward among others, who all have the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage.
Whether San Francisco elects to stick with the unproven duo, or chooses to acquire a veteran through trade or free agency, the next six to eight weeks will be crucial, for a team who is off to their best start since the 2012 season, coincidentally the same year they made the Super Bowl.