LA Rams vs. SF 49ers: 5 players to watch most on Sunday night

SF 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
SF 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /
5 of 6
SF 49ers Deebo Samuel
SF 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 2: SF 49ers WR Deebo Samuel

I was tempted to go with SF 49ers All-Pro tight end George Kittle here, but he’s always a player to watch no matter who the team is playing. Plus, there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll be effective against the middle of the Rams passing defense, especially strong safety Taylor Rapp and linebackers like Kenny Young and Troy Reeder, all of whom are sub-par in coverage.

Instead, it makes sense to highlight wide receiver Deebo Samuel who hasn’t had much of an impact since his return from IR.

In two games, Samuel has caught just five passes on 11 targets for just 54 yards while adding two carries for 13 yards (with a long of 10). And while the expectation was that the team would ease the second-year receiver back from his offseason foot surgery, it might be time to push him a little harder with the season increasingly on the line.

Given that one of the strengths of this Rams defense is at the cornerback position, including former All-Pro Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams, both of whom are ranked in the top 20 at their position, according to Pro Football Focus, there would appear to be two options.

The first is flood the field with pass catchers like Samuel, wideout Kendrick Bourne, Kittle, Jerick McKinnon, fullback Kyle Juszcyzk, and rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk, forcing the Rams to make decisions about who they want to cover.

This strategy would allow a player like Samuel, or really anyone on that list, to get open, and potentially spread the Rams out, making it easier to run on them than it already has been for more teams.

And while this type of spread offense isn’t generally Kyle Shanahan’s forte, the cliche is true: desperate times for desperate measures.

The second option would be to be creative with getting the ball into Samuel’s hands as he did throughout the end of 2019. The jet sweeps are good, as they take advantage of an aggressive Rams defensive line that leads in the NFL in sacks, but also misdirection via reverses, wide receiver screens, and generally moving Deebo around the field could also be effective.

In any respect, it’s time for Shanahan to trust that Samuel is healthy and ready to go. And while attacking the Rams defense via traditional passing might be a little foolhardy, making them think about what’s coming next would make a great deal of sense under the circumstances.