Top 10 players to watch in 49ers' Week 9 matchup against Cardinals
A reason for hope
General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan deserve some credit for creating a degree of excitement around the only 49ers team in franchise history to be winless through eight games.
The 49ers are tied for the worst record in the league with the Cleveland Browns. There is little reason for hope – other than the 49ers believe they now have their quarterback of the future.
He will be in uniform on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, and he is one of the players on whom to keep a close eye. Here are 10 players to watch:
10. 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo arrived in Santa Clara on Tuesday with four suitcases packed with clothes and personal belongings. Five days later, he will be in uniform and only one snap away from getting on the field with his new team.
The 49ers do not intend on him playing. But it all depends on whether C.J. Beathard is available from start to finish.
“We’ve got in enough this week so that we know we can survive to a degree if he (Garoppolo) had to come in,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But, hopefully, we can keep C.J. healthy through this game.”
9. 49ers P Bradley Pinion
Do not expect a whole lot from the 49ers’ offense on Sunday. Therefore, Pinion could have a rather large workload.
Pinion is having an outstanding season for the 49ers, as he ranks fifth in the NFL with a net punting average of 43.6 yards. He is tied for the NFL-lead with 19 punts inside the 20-yard line.
The 49ers’ offense has been bad. The Cardinals’ offense should not be much better with Drew Stanton at quarterback. Therefore, this game could be decided on special teams and with field position.
8. 49ers DL Leger Douzable
Douzable rhymes with “usable,” and that’s an apt description of how he has fit into the 49ers’ defensive line since the club re-signed the nine-year veteran just a couple of weeks ago.
In two games, Douzable has recorded two sacks, placing him behind only Elvis Dumervil for second on the team. With all the injuries on the 49ers’ defensive line, Douzable has quickly become an every-down player.
7. 49ers FS Eric Reid
A week ago, Reid was adapting to his new role as a linebacker. But, now, he is back at his old position because of Jimmie Ward’s season-ending fractured arm. Reid will play free safety, while Jaquiski Tartt has settled nicely into his role at strong safety – Reid’s old spot.
Reid does not have a contract for next season. And while it looks as if the team is ready to move on from him, he has a chance in the second half of the season to make his case for a long-term role with the 49ers.
6. 49ers WR Marquise Goodwin
With Pierre Garçon out for the season with a neck injury, the 49ers turn to Goodwin to be their No. 1 wide receiver. Goodwin is solidly on pace for the best season of his career with 20 catches for 349 yards through eight up-and-down games.
The more time and experience Goodwin gets in this offense, the better it will serve him for the future. He has the kind of deep speed to solidify a role – some role – for the 49ers in the future. But Goodwin must clean up his route-running and consistency. He should get plenty of opportunities.
5. 49ers RT Erik Magnuson
Magnuson, an undrafted rookie from Michigan, was shoved into the lineup at right tackle last week in Philadelphia in his first game in uniform for the 49ers. He had to play a foreign position after injuries to tackles Garry Gilliam and Staley left the 49ers with no other options.
Magnuson now has a full week of work at his new position after playing guard and center from the moment he arrived in the offseason. Magnuson is likely to face a huge challenge on Sunday, as the Cardinals will unquestionably line up a supreme pass-rusher, Chandler Jones, against him on occasion.
4. 49ers DL Ronald Blair
The 49ers kept Blair on the initial 53-man roster, then placed him on injured reserve after he required surgery on his hand. The 49ers wanted to see him at some point in the season. That time is now.
Now, with injuries to Tank Carradine and Arik Armstead, Blair will get his chance to show what he can do. Like all of the young players on the 49ers’ roster, they are playing for their spots for future seasons. The 49ers saw enough to Blair during training camp to want to give him that opportunity.
3. 49ers QB C.J. Beathard
The rookie from Iowa makes his third career start – one more than Garoppolo made during his 3 ½ seasons with the New England Patriots.
Beathard’s play has been up and down since taking over for Brian Hoyer, who was cut this week. (Hoyer replaced Garoppolo as Tom Brady’s backup with the New England Patriots.)
Beathard has shown admirable toughness. And he will likely be tested throughout Sunday’s game behind a makeshift 49ers offensive line.
2. 49ers LB Reuben Foster
There was a lot of excitement that surrounded the arrival of Foster, whom the 49ers selected with the No. 31 overall draft pick. But Foster has not made much of a contribution, as he’s failed to make it through either of his two starts.
After missing five games with a high ankle sprain, Foster was sidelined last week with bruised ribs and back spasms. At a time when the 49ers are banged up and missing so many of their players, the spotlight shines on Foster to step in and make an immediate contribution.
Foster should have plenty of opportunities on Sunday to come face-to-face with Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson, who is one game removed from a 134-yard performance against Tampa Bay.
1. 49ers LT Trent Brown
Brown gets his first career start on the left side with veteran Joe Staley out until after the bye week with a fractured orbital bone of his right eye. Brown returns after missing one game due to a concussion.
Brown’s time at left tackle is potentially an important audition for the future. The 49ers and Brown could begin negotiating a contract extension at the end of the season. Brown could be viewed as the heir apparent to Staley.
And even if the 49ers do not plan an immediate switch with Brown taking over at left tackle, his representation could demand “left tackle money” on his next contract.