With Nick Mullens remaining the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12, there are reasons to believe he’ll go off against a suspect Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan reiterated he’ll continue to start second-year pro Nick Mullens at quarterback until otherwise noted, meaning the upstart Mullens will be under center when the Niners take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12.
Mullens, who broke into the national spotlight with his impressive NFL debut against the Oakland Raiders back in Week 9, regressed somewhat against the New York Giants a week later. During that prime-time bout, he went 27-of-39 for 250 yards, a touchdown against two interceptions and a passer rating of 73.7.
Week 12 will mark Mullens’ first road game, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in this particular contest.
On a positive note, he and the 49ers are coming off their bye week. Mullens will have had an extra week’s worth of preparation.
It also helps the Buccaneers aren’t exactly stellar, defensively.
Just take a look at some of Tampa Bay’s pass-defense stats and NFL rankings:
|Lg Rank Defense||32||28||31||27||28||32||32||31|
While nowhere near as paltry as the Raiders defense, it isn’t as if Tampa Bay’s defensive unit is imposing its will. Plus, the Buccaneers’ crop of linebackers, outside of Lavonte David, can’t cover. And he’s questionable for the contest with a knee injury, meaning Mullens’ budding rapport with tight end George Kittle should be primed for its next phase.
Unlike 2017, the Buccaneers pass rush has shown marked improvement. EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul currently leads Tampa Bay’s defense with 9.5 sacks. But he’s also listed as questionable.
And with only 25 sacks on the year (tied with San Francisco for 18th overall), it isn’t as if the Buccaneers are regularly getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
This hasn’t been much of a problem for Mullens, albeit over a small sample size and against lackluster pass-rushers so far. Mullens has yet to take a sack and has already shown a keener ability to get the ball out quickly when compared to his predecessor under center, C.J. Beathard.
If one grants the Bucs’ biggest defensive strength is their pass rush, which isn’t great to begin with, one should also expect Mullens to be able to successfully navigate the pressure and his his receivers with relative ease.
No team has gained more all-purpose yards this season than Tampa Bay (4,585). And while the Buccaneers have their own quarterbacking issues to figure out, this Week 12 bout could be yet another example of what the NFL wants — high-flying, high-scoring affairs where offenses dominate.
Fortunately, it looks as if Mullens will have the opportunity to live up to that expectation on Sunday.
The 49ers and Buccaneers kick off at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 25 from Raymond James Stadium.