No. 5: 49ers Safety Talanoa Hufanga
Rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga got his first start of the season in the Week 8 win over the Chicago Bears. And by all accounts, he handled himself well despite the Niners having some difficulties with Chicago quarterback Justin Fields and his crop of tight ends.
Things won’t get easier for Hufanga, now the starter at strong safety in place of the injured Jaquiski Tartt, as Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz figures to be a prominent threat.
Ertz, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season after Arizona lost fellow tight end Maxx Williams to a season-ending injury, already has seven receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown over two games with the Cardinals following the trade.
If Colt McCoy is forced to start, Hufanga and the San Francisco defense might have to treat the veteran quarterback like a rookie. Not so much by his experience levels or anything, but rather in terms of the chemistry he’s developed with his receiving targets. And in many cases like these, it’s common for a fill-in quarterback to rely on tight end-type weapons in the passing game.
Ertz, once considered among the league’s elite at the position but nevertheless still potent, could be a clear focal point for Arizona’s passing attack sans Kyler Murray.
Should this be the case, Hufanga will have to be on point this Sunday.