Trending Down: Three 49ers Who Need To Improve

September 15, 2022
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These three 49ers players had a tough start to their season. Who are the players who need to play better?

The disappointing Week One 19-10 loss to the Bears in rain-soaked Chicago showed some positives. However, the negatives were far more apparent. Penalties, turnovers and a lack of execution had a big role in the 49ers’ defeat.

One bad game or play doesn’t define who these players are or who they might become. No player is perfect every game. What matters is how they bounce back and improve week-to-week. Most of the negative things we saw from these players did are fixable mistakes.

During Sunday’s game, three players jumped out and struggled. A former first-round pick, a former hero in the 2019 season and an undrafted running back all had disappointing days. The 49ers need these players to pick it up and improve greatly against the Seahawks if the 49ers want to win Sunday.

49ers Linebacker, Dre Greenlaw

Dre Greenlaw had a rough game on Sunday. Two personal fouls allowed for two drives to continue. He was flagged for a late hit on Justin Fields in the first half and the second half had the biggest penalty of the day that switched momentum Chicago’s way. You simply can’t hit a QB as he is sliding. Compounding that with a face mask on a critical third down does not help things either.

When a team struggles to move the ball, the last thing you can do is have drive-extending penalties. It gives the other team free yards and means that you are on the field longer and anything can happen.

On a third-down in the second half, the 49ers stopped the bears on a run behind the line of scrimmage. It would have forced the bears to punt down 10-0, however, this was when Dre Greenlaw was penalized for a face mask penalty while tackling the Bears’ running back.

Later in the drive after the face mask, Justin Fields was able to scramble out of the pocket to extend what was nearly a broken play. While maneuvering out of the pocket, Fields was able to find a hole in the zone which wideout Dante Pettis was left alone. The threat of Fields running the ball allowed him to move the entire defense and flip the ball across the field for a 53-yard touchdown that turned the game upside down for the Niners. It wasn’t all his fault, but Greenlaw did not have a great game.

Dre Greenlaw is a talented player who plays on the edge. If this was 2008 he would possibly have been fine, however, it’s 2022 and the league has changed. The 2019 fifth-round pick is an impending free agent in a contract year. It remains to be seen if he will get extended by the 49ers, or if he will have to get it in free agency from a different team.

Dre Greenlaw needs to ball out on Sunday and help the Niners win their first divisional matchup of the season to atone for his Week One performance.

49ers Running Back, Jeff Wilson Jr.

Jeff Wilson is a folk hero to some. He is a hard-nosed runner who has a knack for scoring touchdowns. However, against the Bears, he looked below average. Now, that could’ve been because the field wasn’t great and since he’s coming off a knee injury from last year, maybe he wasn’t fully comfortable going full throttle on a soaking wet field.

On Sunday, Jeff Wilson had nine rushes for 22 yards equating to only 2.4 yards per carry. It was a stark contrast to what Elijah Mitchell did in the first half before he left due to injury. In comparison, Mitchell had six carries for 41 yards, averaging out at a whopping 6.8 yards per carry. When Wilson came into the 49ers running game was nowhere near as productive on a day where they mainly wanted to run the ball. The lack of production from Wilson led to the whole offense stalling the rest of the game.

Now, the offensive line didn’t play well in the second half as well so it doesn’t all fall on Wilson. However, the 49ers need a lot more out of Wilson and hopefully against a Seahawks defense this week he has one of his signature games like he did against the Patriots in 2020 when he had 112 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 33-6 win in 2020.

If he doesn’t perform better this week, look for Tyrion Davis Price and Jordan Mason to take over for him in week three along with the possibility of Marlon Mack appearing as well.

49ers Offensive Tackle, Mike McGlinchey

The 2018 first-round pick was brutal on Sunday. McGlinchey, who is in the fifth and final year of his contract with the 49ers, enters the season at a crossroads. He’s not an elite right tackle and he’s not a horrible option either. However, if he keeps performing like he did this past Sunday against the Bears his career in San Francisco could be in jeopardy.

McGlinchey who’s known as a great run blocker hasn’t taken that step as a pass blocker yet. It remains to be seen if he ever will. McGlinchey gave up a crucial sack by barely putting his hands on the defensive end. This play took the 49ers out of field goal range.

This happens far too often.

It seems like he doesn’t possess the killer instinct that is needed as a pass blocker. If healthy he’s going to play every snap for the 49ers this year. The 49ers don’t have a guy waiting in the wings to overtake him at right tackle.

They could theoretically use Daniel Brunskill if it becomes an abject disaster, but they would likely prefer to use Brunskill more as a guard/center hybrid type. The 49ers could also move rookie Spencer Burford outside but for now, he’s the best option at right guard.

The 49ers have a decision to make with McGlinchey at the end of the year when he hits unrestricted free agency. He has to improve and play better fast or else he will be searching for a new place to play in 2023.