Top players to watch in 49ers' Week 8 matchup vs Eagles
Who to watch
Things could not get much worse for the 49ers.
Coming off a 30-point loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers could be without two starters on their offensive line as they make their third trip to the Eastern time zone in four weeks.
Moreover, they will be facing the Philadelphia Eagles, owners of the NFL’s best record at 6-1. The winless 49ers face a stiff challenge to still be in the game after one quarter. The Eagles have outscored their opposition 44-9 in the first quarter, while the 49ers have been outscored 51-16.
Here are seven players to watch in Sunday’s game:
49ers RT Garry Gilliam
Gilliam started 30 games over three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers signed him in the offseason to serve as a backup. And he will be pressed into action on Sunday due to Trent Brown's concussion.
The Eagles have a strong pass rush and will try to confuse the 49ers with a variety of blitzes. Gilliam will be tested in the pass game and against the run. The Eagles allow a league-low 67 yards rushing per game. With the expected inclement weather, the 49ers will need to be stubborn with Carlos Hyde to control the ball.
Eagles QB Carson Wentz
The second-year pro is emerging into one of the game’s stars. The Eagles’ efficiency on third downs (50.5 percent) and the red zone (15 touchdowns on 23 trips inside the 20-yard line) are a direct result of Wentz’s improvements.
Philadelphia head coach Doug Pedersen is putting more and more on Wentz’s plate, and the young quarterback is responding in a big way.
49ers LB Eric Reid
At first, Reid did not seem too thrilled with the prospect of switching from strong safety to a role in the 49ers’ defense as a linebacker. Now, he seems to be changing his opinion.
“This is giving me a new energy, a new juice, just learning a new position,” Reid said. “Just going to try to embrace and do the best I can.”
Reid is unsigned for next season and his future with the 49ers could be contingent on how he adapts to his new position.
Eagles DL Brandon Graham
Graham leads Philadelphia with four sacks, and he figures to look to exploit the 49ers’ issues on the offensive line. Graham will move around the defensive front, including lining up on the inside in passing situations.
That means Graham could look to line up to take advantage of the 49ers at positions of vulnerability with right tackle Trent Brown out with a concussion and right guard Brandon Fusco questionable with a biceps injury.
49ers LT Joe Staley
Staley is a player the 49ers envision as being a valued player for at least a couple of years because of his continued good play as well as his leadership qualities in the 49ers’ locker room.
But if the Eagles – or some other team – were to come calling with a strong trade offer before Tuesday’s deadline, the 49ers would have to look to the future and strongly consider the possibility of adding multiple good, young players for the future.
Eagles TE Zach Ertz
The fifth-year pro from Stanford appears ticketed for the Pro Bowl after getting off to an outstanding start. Ertz is a matchup nightmare for the 49ers. Through seven games, he leads the Eagles with 39 receptions for 494 yards and five touchdowns.
Ertz had 75-plus receptions and more than 800 yards in each of the past two seasons, but he is taking his game to another level due to his improved chemistry with Wentz.
49ers QB C.J. Beathard
The forecast calls for rain at kickoff and extending throughout Sunday’s game. That could make things infinitely more complicated for Beathard, who has enough to worry about as he makes his second NFL start.
It’s paramount that Beathard takes care of the football and makes the adjustments to get the ball out of his hands and not place himself in a position to risk turning the ball over on sack/fumbles. He lost two fumbles in his first NFL start.