The Chargers should be breathing a sigh of relief as their match-up against the 49ers has been downgraded, at least in my eyes, from a trap game to a game in which they should win if they come to play the way fans know they can.
Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee towards the end of their most recent match-up with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 49ers are also down another veteran presence as cornerback Richard Sherman will miss this Sunday’s game with a lingering calf-injury. However, this may help even the playing field as wide receiver Keenan Allen currently sits with a “questionable” tag on the injury report with a combination of a tooth and knee injury.
With the Jimmy G and Sherman injuries headlining this west coast match-up, here are the three biggest storylines I will be watching as the team takes on the Niners for the first time since 2014.
1.) If Keenan Allen is forced to sit this Sunday, how will Tyrell and Mike Williams fare leading the Chargers’ passing attack?
As I write this, the Friday injury report has yet to be released but Allen’s status on gameday remains murky at best after putting up back-to-back “Did not participates” for Wednesday and Thursday. With Travis Benjamin questionable, as well, the Bolts may be forced to trot just three receivers on Sunday unless they choose to promote Dylan Cantrell from the practice squad as back-up.
Mike Williams has finally broken out in a big way, having snagged 11 catches through the team’s first three games of the season for 189 yards and three touchdowns. The yards are second on the team behind Allen (219) while his trio of scores leads the team.
Tyrell is off to a surprisingly sluggish start just two years removed from a 1,000-yard season. Through three games, he sits with a measly seven catches for just 78 yards and a score. However, if it wasn’t for two bone-headed drops against the Chiefs, we could be chirping about Tyrell in a much different tone.
The only other available receiver on the roster, journeyman Geremy Davis, has yet to record a catch but flashed enough during the preseason to warrant keeping him on the team’s initial 53-man roster.
The 49ers defensive backfield isn’t comepletly void of talent but there are no names that stand out as for-sure threats to the Chargers’ prolific offense. If Allen does find himself sidelined this Sunday, expect a healthy dose of the Williams’ and possibly...dare I say...an Antonio Gates throwback game??
We can only dream.
2.) How will the Chargers handle the 49ers’ rushing attack, including the league’s leading rusher, Matt Breida?
Just like everyone predicted, the NFL’s leading rusher through the first three weeks of the season is none other than-
Former Georgia Southern-product, Matt Breida.
It should be noted that Breida is tied with the Dallas Cowboys’ Zeke Elliott with 274 rushing yards. However, Breida has accomplished this with 16 less carries than Mr. Elliott. The former UDFA is averaging a whopping 8.56 yards per tote and is taking will likely take full advantage of the increased opportunities as Shanahan and Co. try to take some of the heat off quarterback CJ Beathard who will be starting in place of the injured Jimmy G.
Breida is joined in the backfield by Alfred Morris who, at one point many moons ago, was uber-productive with Shanahan during his days in Washington. On the season, Morris has 40 carries for 153 yards and single touchdown.
With the Chargers allowing over 120 rushing yards per game, expect the Niners to at least attempt to exploit the biggest weakness of the defense this Sunday.
3.) It’s a reunion of former Iowa Hawkeyes as CB Desmong King faces his former quarterback and tight end in CJ Beathard and George Kittle. Who will get the last laugh?
Leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, there were a number of former Hawkeyes that draft analysts were high on. This batch of Iowa prospects were headlined by King, a former Jim Thorpe Award winner, and Kittle, a tight end that just ran a blazing 4.53 in the forty-yard dash.
To everyone’s surprise, it was actually Beathard who became the first Hawkeye to be drafted when he was selected by the Niners in the third round. Two rounds later, King and Kittle were finally selected in the fifth round and both went on to have a substantial impact for their team’s during their rookie campaigns. Heading into their first regular season match-up as pros, Kittle currently leads the 49ers in receiving yards while King may find himself matched up with Kittle in the majority of passing situations on Sunday.
The cherry on top of this wonderful scenario is King will have a chance to collect his second career interception against his former teammate. With King likely well-versed in Beathard’s nuances behind center, it’s not out of the realm of possibility King could take advantage of the 49ers quarterback misfortune.