No. 4: Exploit Mayfield’s tendencies
Per NextGen Stats, Baker Mayfield was an above-average passer when he threw deep left in 2018. This year, Mayfield has Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry at his disposal, so that pattern has shifted: His preference is now wide right or the slot.
Knowing these tendencies certainly helps defensive units scheme against him, but another equally valuable piece of knowledge is understanding what the second-year quarterback will do when pressured.
Unlike elite quarterbacks, who prefer staying in the pocket or quarterbacks who excel while rolling right or left, Mayfield has seemed uncomfortable in either situation this season.
ESPN’s Jeff Trotter pointed out Mayfield struggles whenever he holds the ball longer than 2.5 seconds.
That presents a window of opportunity for the 49ers.
It’s all about getting Mayfield’s undisciplined feet to get out of the pocket and skip his progressions or throwing off his timing. The Los Angeles Rams were able to do that in Week 3 and they got a 20-13 win to show for it.
To his credit, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens cooked up a new recipe for Mayfield: a healthy dose of quick, short passes to get the ball out fast. It worked. They beat the Ravens doing just that.
It’s hard to imagine they’ll deviate too much from that this week against the Niners.
Here’s the thing, though. The Ravens failed to really pressure Mayfield. According to Mike Tagliere of FantasyPros, they only pressed him on about 25 percent of his dropbacks. The 49ers will have to pressure Mayfield closer to or beyond the league average of 35 percent to find success.
The man for the job is Nick Bosa.
Per NextGen Stats, Bosa boasts elite-level separation from the quarterback of 3.4 yards, the best among the 49ers and well below the league-average of 4.49 yards. That puts Bosa in line with All-Pro defenders like Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt.
A strong defense is great, but the Niners are also going to need to put up points on the scoreboard.