Five 49ers who put together encouraging film against Saints
One win, seven losses
The 49ers’ seven-game losing streak pretty much says it all. The 49ers turned the ball over four times and the defense was completely overmatched Sunday in a 41-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Levi’s Stadium.
You already know about the team’s struggles on offense and its inability to defend against the run. But just to change it up a little, we’re going to look at five players who provided the organization with some encouraging signs in Sunday’s game...
5) JaCorey Shepherd
OK, the first question on everybody’s mind is ... “Who?”
Shepherd, 23, was a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. He sustained an ACL tear during his first training camp, which also was Chip Kelly’s final season with the Eagles. The 49ers signed him on Oct. 10. He has now played in three games with the 49ers. He is not even listed as a return man, but he was called upon to line up deep on kickoffs. He averaged 34.7 yards on three kickoff returns – far and away the most production the 49ers have seen from that spot this season.
4) Quinton Patton
Patton, a fourth-round draft pick in 2013, is in his fourth NFL season. He is scheduled for free agency in the offseason. The 49ers might be tempted to keep him around. After catching 30 passes for 394 yards last season, he appears likely to improve on those numbers this season.
Patton had the best game of his career on Sunday, as he looked as if he had extra bounce in his step with six receptions for 106 yards. Perhaps, Patton could be part of the team’s future and provide the organization with more production if they figure out how to improve other areas of the passing game.
3) Jaquiski Tartt
After selecting him in the second round of last year’s draft, Tartt has to find a way to get on the field next year as a full-time starter at safety. He played only 25 of the 49ers’ 87 defensive snaps on Sunday.
After Eric Reid briefly left the game in the fourth quarter, Saints quarterback Drew Brees wisely targeted Tartt on the very next play. Speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks tried to beat Tartt deep. But Tartt ran stride-for-stride with Cooks and broke up the pass.
2) DuJuan Harris
The diminutive running back bounced from the active roster to the practice squad in the first five weeks of the season. Then, after Carlos Hyde’s shoulder injury sidelined him, Harris quickly showed that he is the team’s best backup. He leap-frogged Shaun Draughn and Mike Davis on the depth chart.
On Sunday, Harris rushed for 59 yards on 10 carries. He also caught five passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. It was not all perfect, of course. Harris lost a fumble in the closing minutes. But even when Hyde comes back (probably this week), Harris appears to have earned a more-significant role as a change-of-pace back.
1) Vance McDonald
The 49ers invested a second-round pick in McDonald in 2013. He is finally showing up in the passing game. McDonald demonstrated the ability to make yards after the catch when he took a short pass from Colin Kaepernick, turned up the field and did not stop until he reached the end zone, 65 yards later.
McDonald had a 75-yard touchdown reception earlier this season. On Sunday, he ended up with 84 yards on three catches. Garrett Celek added four receptions for 76 yards, as the 49ers got good production from their top two tight ends.