NBC Sports

Aiyuk one of five 49ers to watch vs. Eagles in Week 2

NBC Sports
Brandon Aiyuk

The 49ers were not sure, exactly, how to feel in the aftermath of their 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 1.

The 49ers nearly squandered a huge lead. And they knew cornerback Jason Verrett was lost for the season due to a knee injury.

They would learn that running back Raheem Mostert would also be lost for the season. Also, linebacker Dre Greenlaw required core-muscle surgery that will knock him out of action for at least half the season.

The 49ers return to action Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, who offer more than their share of challenges on both sides of the ball.

Here are five 49ers to watch on Sunday:

5. QB Trey Lance

It is possible that Trey Lance could provide a helping hand to the 49ers on both sides of the ball. While he might get in for a few snaps on offense in Sunday’s game, his contribution to the 49ers’ defense was made during the week of practices.

Lance’s ability to run the read-option, as well as pull the ball and throw it could have helped the 49ers’ defense prepare for this game.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts rushed for 62 yards and threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns in the Week 1 win at Atlanta.

Lance ran the scout team offense against the 49ers’ No. 1 defense this week in preparation for facing Hurts.

On offense, expect Lance to mix into the game behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Lance played four snaps in the 49ers’ season opener. His only pass attempt went for a 5-yard touchdown to receiver Trent Sherfield.

 

Coach Kyle Shanahan suggested he will always try to get game action for Lance, the team’s quarterback of the future.

“I think getting a guy any playing time when he's the No. 2 quarterback helps his development more than getting no playing time,” he said.

4. CB Deommodore Lenoir

Rookie Deommodore Lenoir earned his way into the starting lineup for Week 1 with the idea that he would soon be heading to a backup role in the 49ers’ secondary.

Now, he has a chance to be a starter for a long, long time.

Lenoir took over for Emmanuel Moseley (knee), whose availability for Sunday’s game remains in doubt. Even when Moseley returns, Lenior's starting role could be there for the long term with Jason Verrett out for the season with a torn ACL.

Lenoir played all 90 snaps against the Lions. He was rarely tested. Jared Goff completed one of three passes in which he targeted Lenoir. The Eagles are likely to test the rookie Sunday.

The 49ers signed veteran cornerbacks Josh Norman and Dre Kirkpatrick over the past two weeks. The starting cornerback positions for the remainder of the season are not obvious. But if Lenoir continues to play well, he will lock down the spot opposite of a healthy Moseley.

3. Edge Dee Ford

The addition of Dee Ford is a big deal for the 49ers’ defense.

Ford’s status through most of the offseason was in question due to a back condition that forced him out of the final 15 games of 2020. He showed up in a big way in the 49ers’ season opener despite playing just 30 snaps as a situational edge rusher.

Ford had one sack and two quarterback hits in the Week 1 victory over the Lions. His front-side pressure contributed to a poor throw that resulted in Dre Greenlaw’s interception and 39-yard touchdown return.

Ford’s speed on the outside will be big on third downs against Hurts, who can break contain and pick up big yardage with his legs.

2. WR Brandon Aiyuk

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel asserted himself in Week 1 with a career-best 189 yards receiving. Now, the 49ers need to get more from Brandon Aiyuk, who had a productive rookie season with 60 receptions for 748 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games.

Trent Sherfield, whom the Arizona Cardinals declined to tender as a restricted free agent, has played well enough to challenge Aiyuk for playing time.

RELATED: Why Young thinks 49ers' QB situation is 'fraught with terror'

In Week 1, Sherfield played 27 snaps with Aiyuk on the field for 26 plays. Aiyuk was not targeted in the win.

Aiyuk missed some time late in training camp with a hamstring injury, but he had full practice workloads in Week 1 and Week 2. He could be back as a starter against the Eagles.

Aiyuk must separate himself from the others and work his way into a spot where he’s on equal footing with Samuel.

 

Until he gets there, the 49ers’ offense will not be as good as it can be.

1. RT Mike McGlinchey

Following a dominating Week 1 performance, it gets real Sunday for 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey.

McGlinchey, a fourth-year pro whom the 49ers selected with the ninth pick of the 2018 draft, returns home to Philadelphia for the first time as a pro.

McGlinchey is coming off the opener in Detroit in which he allowed no sacks, no hits and no hurries. Run-blocking has never been an issue.

McGlinchey last season ranked second in the league among offensive tackles in run-blocking behind only teammate Trent Williams, according to Pro Football Focus.

But he graded out No. 56 in pass protection among tackles who played 10 or more games last season. He allowed five sacks and 32 other hits or pressures allowed, according to PFF.

McGlinchey put on 25 pounds for this season to allow him to anchor down more effectively on plays when he might get off-balance.

He will be up against a steady diet of good defensive ends Sunday, as the 49ers take on such Eagles edge rushers as Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan.

How McGlinchey performs could be the difference in this one.

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast