Five 49ers to watch vs. Jaguars in pivotal Week 10 clash originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
After five consecutive victories to open the season, the 49ers looked as if they were the best team in the NFL.
Then, the 49ers dropped three in a row.
As the 49ers come out of the bye week with a cross-country trip to face the Jacksonville Jaguars, there is reason for plenty of doubt outside the building. The Jaguars are 6-2 and on a five-game win streak.
So, this is no easy get-back-on-track game for the 49ers.
“I think it’s important every week, but especially when you’ve lost three in a row,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s always a one-week season, and it’s not about going on a run or anything like that.
“It’s about trying to beat a really good football team this week.”
The 49ers have their issues on both sides of the ball.
The defense has not lived up to expectations. And after scoring more than 30 points in their first five games, the 49ers scored 17, 17 and 17 points in their three consecutive losses.
Here are five 49ers to watch in the team’s Week 10 game at Jacksonville:
A year ago, Talanoa Hufanga was all over the field.
Perhaps, more specifically, he was near the line of scrimmage and always around the ball. Now, the 49ers need more from Hufanga.
Forget about defensive coordinator Steve Wilks moving from the booth to the sideline, the bigger thing is for him to find a way to get Hufanga more active and making game-changing types of plays.
This is a good opportunity for Hufanga to make some plays. The Jaguars certainly will feed the ball to versatile running back Travis Etienne, and Hufanga can help set the tone for this game with a big hit early in the game.
Christian McCaffrey has been the focal point on the 49ers’ offense. He leads all NFL running backs in yards from scrimmage (944) and rushing yards (652).
But McCaffrey has found it difficult to find space to run in recent weeks. In the past four games, McCaffrey gained 51, 43, 45 and 54 yards on the ground.
He appeared to benefit from the week off, as McCaffrey got refreshed from the bye week and appears to have a little more spring in his step.
With Deebo Samuel returning to action after missing 2 1/2 games with a shoulder injury, things could open up a little more for McCaffrey as a runner and receiver.
Teams have gone after the 49ers’ nickel back, and this game should be more of the same.
The Jaguars’ Christian Kirk is among the top three slot receivers in the NFL. He has 33 receptions on the 42 passes in which Trevor Lawrence has targeted him. Kirk has 393 yards and three touchdowns out of the slot.
Meanwhile, Oliver has struggled in coverage.
In the past four games, Oliver has surrendered 20 completions on 20 targets for 179 yards and three touchdowns.
Oliver has been good in run support, but he must be able to put up a lot more resistance in pass coverage or the Jags will feast on third downs.
Brock Purdy got away during the bye week, and it provided him with a nice opportunity to clear his mind after a three-game losing streak in which he committed six giveaways over the past 10 quarters of action.
“It was good just to be able to breathe and get my mind and my thoughts, everything together and regroup for what’s to come for the second half of the season,” Purdy said. “So it was good for me.”
The fact remains that Purdy is having a Pro Bowl-type of season in his first full year as the 49ers’ starter. Purdy ranks No. 1 in the league with a 9.1-yard average per pass attempt. His passer rating of 105.4 is second, ranking behind only Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Now, Purdy has to put a full game together — as he has done for most of the time since taking over as the 49ers’ starter last December.
1. DE Chase Young
It did not take long for the 49ers to make the move to anoint newly acquired Chase Young as a starter. He is now listed atop the team’s depth chart at defensive end.
“I think he’s going to jump in right away,” Shanahan said this week.
Young appears to be nearly all the way back from a significant knee injury that plagued him for nearly two years. Young averaged 58 plays per game with the Washington Commanders with a high of 75 snaps on Oct. 15 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Young had five sacks in seven games with Washington before the trade that delivered him to the 49ers for a special compensatory pick at the end of the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft.
The 49ers have experienced issues on defense, particularly in the past two games against Minnesota and Cincinnati.
Although general manager John Lynch cautions that Young is not a magic pill, his presence is expected to have a noticeable impact on the 49ers at every level of their defense.