49ers Trey Sermon needs statement game in Week 5 vs. Cardinals

Trey Sermon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Trey Sermon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

2-2. Sunday, Oct. 10. 4-0. 4:25 p.m. ET. 42. Fox. 32. Cardinals -5.5

It’s been a slow start for 49ers rookie running back Trey Sermon, but a Week 5 matchup against the Cardinals is an opportunity to break out.

If the San Francisco 49ers are hoping to pull off an upset in Week 5 against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, rookie running back Trey Sermon will have to be a big reason why.

It wasn’t supposed to be a role Sermon assumed, at least not right away. But when the Niners lost No. 1 running back Raheem Mostert to a season-ending knee injury, then lost fellow rookie rusher Elijah Mitchell after Week 2, Sermon became the de facto top option.

Even if he got off to a slow start, being inactive in Week 1 and then getting only one carry in Week 2.

San Francisco’s third-round NFL Draft choice out of Ohio State could potentially lose touches to Mitchell this week, the latter looking to return from a shoulder injury. Yet Sermon could still end up getting the lion’s share of carries in this NFC West road matchup at Arizona.

If so, Sermon will need to deliver.

Trey Sermon, 49ers need to counter Cardinals’ potent offense

The Cardinals enter Week 5 with the league’s No. 1-ranked offense, both in terms of scoring and yards gained. Quarterback Kyler Murray, already a 49ers nemesis, is playing at an MVP level as is within the top five of nearly every passing category signal-callers want to be in.

On top of that, six of Murray’s pass-catching targets already have at least 100 receiving yards on the season, proving the third-year quarterback has been more than effective at distributing the ball.

Those are problems the Niners defense has to contend with. Yet an equally effective approach is simply not letting Murray and Arizona’s offense on the field too much.

That’s where someone like Sermon, who finally broke out in Week 4 with 89 rush yards on 19 carries, comes into play.

Cardinals defense may have tough time defending Trey Sermon

For all the things the Cardinals have done well this year, defending against the run hasn’t been one of them.

Take a look at opponents’ rushing totals against Arizona through the first four weeks:

Cardinals Game Results Table — Weeks 1-4
WeekOpponentTeamOppRush Yards
1W@Tennessee Titans381386
2WMinnesota Vikings3433177
3W@Jacksonville Jaguars3119159
4W@Los Angeles Rams3720121

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 10/7/2021.

Week 1 against running back Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans might have been a bit of an anomaly. But that shouldn’t matter too much, considering the Cardinals are allowing an average of 5.4 yards per carry.

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Next to worst in the NFL through four weeks.

Football Outsiders‘ DVOA metric suggests it’s not as bad, however, as Arizona ranks 16th in this category at minus-11.4 percent. For what it’s worth, San Francisco’s run defense is ranked 13th at minus-14.3 (the lower the number, the better).

If 49ers start Trey Lance, Trey Sermon is even more crucial

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is going to eventually give way to another rookie, Trey Lance, who might get his first NFL start in Week 5 in the wake of Garoppolo’s calf injury suffered last week.

For all his limitations, Jimmy G has at least been modestly effective at times when the run game isn’t working. If anything, he’s more experienced in that matter. Lance, although capable of creating his own rushing offense, lacks that pro-level experience wholly.

So, that’s the reason why Sermon’s prowess and presence become even more important.

Lance, like many a young quarterback, will have to rely on a strong rushing game to support him, both to take pressure off pass-rushers and to help implement play action. Should Sermon continue with another solid effort in Week 5, Lance will be that much better off.

And, particularly in the long-term scheme of things, Sermon will, too, developing what could be the necessary one-two chemistry with Lance for the foreseeable future.

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