Justin Skule

Five 49ers to watch in Week 11: Jimmy Garoppolo must step up vs. Cardinals

Five 49ers to watch in Week 11: Jimmy Garoppolo must step up vs. Cardinals

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers take the field on Sunday looking to rebound from a loss for the first time this season.

The 49ers (8-1) still lead the NFC West by a half-game over the Seattle Seahawks, who snapped San Francisco's winning streak with a 27-24 victory in overtime on Monday night.

Now, the 49ers will face the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in three weeks.

The clubs met on Oct. 31, a game in which the 49ers hold on for a 28-25 victory over the Cardinals. Here are five key players for the 49ers in this Week 11 matchup:

5. LT Justin Skule

The sixth-round draft pick is back in the starting lineup after veteran left tackle Joe Staley underwent surgery to repair a dislocated and fractured finger. Skule started six games earlier this season in place of Staley before he was inactive Monday night against the Seahawks.

Skule surrendered four sacks and 13 total pressures in his six starts, and he will go up against one of the more difficult assignments on the schedule – another matchup with Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones.

Jones has registered double-digit sacks in five consecutive seasons, including this year with 11.5. Jones and Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett are tied for the lead in the NFL.

Coach Kyle Shanahan will do all he can to take the heat off Skule, but there will be plenty of instances in which he must be able to hold up one-on-one against one of the best in the league.

4. SS Jaquiski Tartt

The 49ers saw what worked for the Cardinals in Week 9, and you can be sure the formula will remain mostly the same on Sunday.

Arizona’s offensive game plan called for a heavy dose of running back Kenyan Drake, both as a runner and pass-catcher. Drake had 15 rushing attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all four of his pass targets for 52 yards.

Tartt will have major responsibilities in both areas. He will play in the box on the early downs, where he can be the eighth defender against the run. He must also quickly diagnose the Cardinals’ screen game and keep those plays to a minimum.

The 49ers’ pass rush was held mostly at bay against the Cardinals because coach Kliff Kingsbury designed a game plan that called for quarterback Kyler Murray to take short drops and deliver the ball quickly. Tartt might have an opportunity to jump some of those shallow routes.

3. WR Deebo Samuel

The 49ers have not been able to find consistency at wide receiver, aside from newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders. But Sanders is questionable for Sunday with a rib injury. He is expected to play, but he will not be at 100 percent.

Samuel is showing signs of being a trusted target for Jimmy Garoppolo as a rookie.

Samuel, a second-round draft pick from South Carolina, has 30 catches for 339 yards and one touchdown. He had a strong showing on Monday night, but had a bad drop on a play that could have turned into a long touchdown.

With the 49ers not finding reliable answers with Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis, in particular, San Francisco will need more and more production from Samuel.

2. LB Fred Warner

The season-ending injury to linebacker Kwon Alexander left a large void in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

Fred Warner did a good job of compensating for the loss of Alexander, who proved to be a solid playmaker and an invaluable member of the team for the energy he brings to the defense. On Monday, Warner did it all.

Warner registered 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was disappointed in his own play on Oct. 31 when he missed two tackles and made some assignment errors in the first meeting against the Cardinals.

The next step for Warner is becoming a reliable player game in and game out.

"He had a very good game and now it goes back to consistency being the truest measure of performance,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He’s got to go stack it up and do it again.”

1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo cannot do it all by himself, but he’s going to have to do more than usual.

Garoppolo had his best game on Oct. 31 against the Cardinals. He threw for 317 yards and four touchdowns in the 49ers’ 28-25 victory in Glendale, Arizona

Then, he followed that up with a stinker against the Seattle Seahawks. To be fair, Garoppolo did not receive much support from his teammates on offense. The pass protection was problematic, and the receivers had plenty of difficulties holding onto the ball.

[RELATED: Lynch frustrated by 49ers receivers' drops but won't panic]

But Garoppolo was also off the mark on many of throws where his receivers should have come up with catches. He was also helped out by Seattle’s defense, which did not hold onto a would-be interception or two.

The 49ers do not figure to have tight end George Kittle available, and Sanders could be limited with his ribs injury. Garoppolo will have to show trust in the team’s other targets, and they'll have to hold up their end of the bargain, too.

49ers' Justin Skule 'most likely' to replace Joe Staley vs. Cardinals

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AP

49ers' Justin Skule 'most likely' to replace Joe Staley vs. Cardinals

SANTA CLARA -- Rookie Justin Skule will “most likely” return to the 49ers starting lineup in place of veteran left tackle Joe Staley, coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday.

Staley underwent surgery to repair a broken and dislocated finger, an injury that occurred Monday night in the 49ers’ 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Staley, a six-time Pro Bowler, did not realize the extent of the injury until it swelled on him Tuesday morning.

“He will not play this week and probably be out a couple of weeks,” Shanahan said.

Skule started six games earlier this season when Staley was sidelined with a fractured left lower leg. When Staley returned to action on Monday, Skule was deactivated for the game. The 49ers went with Daniel Brunskill as the backup offensive tackle behind Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

[RELATED: 49ers clarify George Kittle not officially ruled out yet vs. Cardinals]

Shanahan expressed confidence that Skule will again step in and play well in place of Staley.

“I thought he did a very good job,” Shanahan said of Skule, a sixth-round draft pick from Vanderbilt. “He came in there and stepped it up right away. He did a good job his first game and I thought he got better each week. We were happy with how he played, and I’m glad we have a couple of good backups.”

How Daniel Brunskill, Justin Skule have learned from 49ers' star linemen

How Daniel Brunskill, Justin Skule have learned from 49ers' star linemen

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ win streak has continued with virtual unknowns Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill playing offensive tackle.

Skule and Brunskill have done an admirable job filling in for injured starters Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Just like Staley and McGlinchey have similar personalities, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Skule and Brunskill remind him of each other.

The two young tackles are similar in their low-key personalities and their ability to focus without getting in their own heads. All it takes is a minute speaking with them to realize they could not be any more different than the pair of Staley and McGlinchey.

“They’re very loud and rambunctious people, and they like to give me a hard time about being monotone and not so loud,” Skule said. “But they’re fun guys to be around.”

“They’re like the same guy just different years," Brunskill said. "It’s really cool how tight they are and when you come into that room. It’s really awesome come into that room.”

Brunskill and Skule talked about the influences of Staley and McGlinchey on this week’s episode of The 49ers Insider Podcast. Both players said they have benefitted from a great culture in the offensive line meeting room that begins with those two players.

“To have those guys be as loud and funny as they are, it just lightens up the room,” Brunskill said. “Some of the days can get long with all of the meetings, and they love to bring the energy and make everything really fun. It’s easy to come in to work for that.”

Skule took over as the starter for the 49ers’ Week 3 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when Staley fractured his leg in the 49ers’ Sept. 15 win at Cincinnati. Staley invited Skule to his house to watch film of the Steelers in preparation for his first NFL start.

“This is his third year with coach Shanahan and we’re installing something in camp and Joe is taking as many notes as anyone in the room,” said Skule, a sixth-round draft pick from Vanderbilt.

“He doesn’t sit back in his chair, like, ‘Oh, I know this.’ He’s taking the most detailed notes out of anyone. When I saw that, it really resonated with me. This is why he’s been able to be so successful in this league for so long. He treats every day like a new day.”

Brunskill spent the previous two seasons on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons. His first start came in the 49ers’ 20-7 over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. Brunskill said Staley sets a good example in the meeting room but because of their similarities in experience, he and Skule can often relate better with McGlinchey, a second-year player whom the 49ers chose in the first round of last year'draft.

[RELATED: 49ers' Sherman feeding off slights, doubts of opponents]

“It’s the perfect mix,” said Brunskill, who entered the NFL in 2017 with the Falcons as an undrafted rookie from San Diego State.

Staley could be back in the 49ers’ lineup as early as Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals. McGlinchey could return any time from Week 10’s game, Monday, Nov. 11, against Seattle, to Week 12 against Green Bay on Sunday, Nov. 24.