49ers X-factors and players to watch
The injury bug has certainly hit the 49ers, so a number of players will be asked to play more significant roles in today’s game:
LB Fred Warner
Warner looked truly elite in his 12-tackle NFL debut. With fellow inside linebacker Reuben Foster serving the final game of his two-game suspension, and Smith unlikely to play, the 49ers need a repeat performance from their third-round draft pick.
LB Elijah Lee
Lee may get the start next to Warner on the inside. Lee has the athletic ability to outperform last week’s starter Coyle, but will he be able to perform on the big stage in his first career NFL start?
G Najee Toran
Toran was recently signed to the 49ers’ practice squad as a developmental project. Now, he’s protecting the 49ers’ most prized investment, Garoppolo. Look for the Lions to challenge the rookie early and often.
WR Pierre Garcon
Wide receiver Pierre Garcon was the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver before last year’s season-ending injury. With the emergence of Goodwin, Garcon has become an afterthought in the Niners’ offensive game plan. The 32-year old needs to be a reliable target for Garoppolo during Goodwin’s absence.
WR Dante Pettis
The rookie will see extensive playing time — and a likely start — with Goodwin out for the week. San Francisco won’t expect Goodwin-level production from the wideout, but they will need him to play with the confidence he gained over the course of his first NFL game last week.
WR Richie James
Rookie wideout Richie James appeared to be a special talent during the preseason, but he’ll no longer have the opportunity to take advantage of inferior preseason defensive talent. James dominated second and third-team defenses, but how will he fare against top defenders?
49ers’ Pass Rushers
The 49ers need to produce an effective outside pass rush, without relying on their 3-technique defensive tackle for sacks. Particularly today, pressure will force mistakes, which will create turnovers, which will result a in victory for the home team. Can the 49ers create the pressure they need?
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo wanted to be the face of the 49ers’ franchise. Garoppolo got his wish; now the 49ers need their franchise QB.