SF 49ers vs NY Giants: Why Jerick McKinnon will go off in Week 3
By Robert Smith
The SF 49ers are dealing with a slew of injuries as they prepare for the Giants, yet Jerick McKinnon could be a major force for the Niners in Week 3.
With injuries decimating the SF 49ers on both sides of the ball, it may be tough to find the silver lining.
But running back Jerick McKinnon might just be that for the Niners this Sunday against the 0-2 New York Giants.
While the high-ankle sprain suffered by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo against the New York Jets last Sunday will likely keep him out for Week 3, the thought would be San Francisco would be able to lean on running back Raheem Mostert to generate offense through the running game.
After all, backup quarterback Nick Mullens could use the help of a strong running game as he is set to make his first start since 2018. Unfortunately for Mullens, not only is Mostert out this week with a knee injury, but backup runner Tevin Coleman will be out as well with a knee injury of his own.
However, head coach Kyle Shanahan and the SF 49ers offense will most assuredly feature McKinnon when the team takes the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After all, McKinnon has been very productive in a limited role in the Niners’ first two games, carrying the ball six times for 101 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he has three receptions for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Look for those numbers to jump against the Giants this week.
The Giants defense, through the first two games, has yielded an average of 326.5 yards per contest, ranking fourth in the NFL. As impressive as that is, their run defense has struggled, yielding 138 yards per game through two weeks.
In fact, in the Giants’ opening game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, little-known running back Benny Snell rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries in a 26-16 Steelers win. Last week, the Chicago Bears utilized running back David Montgomery in both the running and receiving game, as he racked up 82 rushing yards on 16 carries, with another 45 yards receiving in a 17-13 win at home against the Giants.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme in the run game could prove problematic for the Giants, who had difficulty with the zone against the Bears. McKinnon could be featured much the way the Bears used Montgomery.
The Giants defense struggled with poor tackling angles in each of the first two weeks, and facing a 49ers offense that has rushed for over 150 yards per game thus far may further expose their deficiencies.
This opportunity for McKinnon has been a long time coming, with his well-documented struggles with injuries over the past two seasons hopefully now behind him.
McKinnon looked quick, decisive, and elusive both running and receiving in the first two weeks, and with an added workload due to the injuries not only in the backfield but with the receiving corps as well, look for Shanahan to use him in check-downs, outside runs, and short routes set up to help Mullens with easy pitch-and-catch completions to build his confidence.
With a Giants defense that has struggled both with zone-blocking offenses and tackling in the first two weeks, McKinnon is set up to have his way this Sunday at MetLife.