Sat, 05 Dec 2020

5 Things to Watch For as 49ers Seek Redemption vs. Jets

San Francisco 49ers
18 Sep 2020, 23:44 GMT+10

Keiana Martin

It's no question the 49ers are seeking redemption following their Week 1 divisional loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers have the opportunity to do so, as they take their first of back-to-back trips to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Jets in Week 2. San Francisco enters Sunday with a number of changes to their roster, including the addition of a veteran wideout and the loss of an All-Pro cornerback. Here are five things to look for in the 49ers Week 2 matchup against the Jets.

More of Gore

Outside of San Francisco looking to redeem themselves, the next biggest storyline is the 49ers matchup against the franchise's all-time leading rusher and fan favorite, Frank Gore. Heading into his 16th NFL season, the Jets signed Gore to a one-year deal back in May. Gore, 37, spent the 2019 with the Buffalo Bills, rushing for 599 yards and two touchdowns while splitting time with Devin Singletary. Last season, Gore passed Barry Sanders for third on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 15,347 yards.

Gore is likely to see an uptick in snaps on Sunday with Jets running back Le'Veon Bell on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury. After stepping in for Bell in the Week 1 loss to the Bills, Gore led the team with 24 rushing yards on six carries. Although it's hard to root against him, 49ers fans will have to curb their enthusiasm in the Week 2 matchup.

Aiyuk's Anticipated NFL Debut

Despite the 49ers series of woes at the receiver position to start the 2020 season, the 49ers are eager for rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk to make his NFL debut on Sunday.

The first-year receiver has been working his way back from a hamstring injury suffered back in training camp. Although inactive in Week 1, head coach Kyle Shanahan provided some optimism saying, he would "be surprised" if the rookie wasn't ready to go this week. Aiyuk was a full participant this week at practice as signs point to his first game as a member of the 49ers against the Jets.

Aiyuk's availability will be a welcomed lift for San Francisco's wide receivers who saw just four receptions in the 49ers loss to the Cardinals. The hope is to see more production out of their receiving corps against a Jets defense that allowed 312 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Bills in Week 1.

Mohamed Sanu Quick Turnaround

Speaking of debuts, is San Francisco's newest receiver, Mohamed Sanu, primed to take his first snaps as a member of the 49ers on Sunday? San Francisco signed Sanu to a one-year deal on Wednesday following the recent string of injuries at the receiver position.

Sanu is getting acclimated to the 49ers offense virtually, as the wideout must undergo a series of testing and protocols before joining the team in person. Should the wideout clear COVID testing as planned, the earliest he's able to join the team is Friday. Typically, the team's final practice of the week is a walkthrough, not a full contact session. He'll have a short amount of time to grasp the offense and build a rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo if he is to make his 49ers debut on Sunday.

The 49ers are counting on the receiver's familiarity with the offense to accelerate his learning curve. San Francisco is leaning on Sanu's history with the 49ers staff to ease his transition as the wideout spent the 2016 season under Shanahan during his time with the Atlanta Falcons. Equally, the 49ers quarterback is doing extra studying to learn about his newest wideout in preparation for Week 2.

"It's really just about watching film, learning his body language," Garoppolo said. "It's going to be weird not getting a live rep with him, but we'll make it work somehow."

Sherm-less Secondary

The 49ers made a series of moves on Wednesday at the cornerback position, with the most notable being Richard Sherman's Injured Reserve designation. According to Shanahan, Sherman is dealing with a calf strain suffered during the final series of Sunday's game. Sherman is eligible for return following the team's fourth game of the season. Additionally, fourth-year corner Ahkello Witherspoon suffered a concussion during Sunday's loss. Veteran corner Jason Verrett did not practice on Wednesday as he is working his way back from a hamstring injury.

San Francisco promoted Dontae Johnson to the active roster from the team's practice squad, signed cornerback Ken Webster from the Miami Dolphins practice squad to a one-year deal and placed former sixth-round pick Tim Harris on the practice squad Injured Reserve List.

In addition to Johnson and Webster, Emmanuel Moseley and K'Waun Williams are the only other healthy corners on the roster. The Jets are dealing with their own series of injuries. Second-round wide receiver Denzel Mims was placed on Injured Reserve this week with a hamstring injury. Fellow wideout Jamison Crowder sat out of Thursday's practice with a hamstring injury. Crowder caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown in their Week 1 loss to the Bills. According to New York's head coach Adam Gase, his status is uncertain as the team continues to evaluate him.

The 49ers may not have to face another DeAndre Hopkins in Week 2. But if Crowder is out, receivers Breshad Perriman, Chris Hogan, Braxton Berrios and Josh Malone are the next men up to challenge San Francisco's thin cornerback situation.

Battle of the First-Round Picks

Despite not getting his hands on a slippery Kyler Murray, Nick Bosa was still disruptive in the 49ers season opener against the Cardinals. The former first-round pick notched five quarterback pressures (one hit, four hurries) and totaled five run stops on Sunday. He'll be presented with a new challenge this week against the 2020 11th-overall pick, Mekhi Becton. Becton was the highest-graded offensive rookie in Week 1, allowing just two pressures from 41 pass-blocking snaps.

Becton was limited this week with a knee injury. Gase said the rookie is tough and is likely to play through the injury. Bosa will aim to regain his footing against the first-year left tackle and the opportunity fill some stats in the sack column.

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