Not all is lost in loss as the 49ers young core stands out in primetime

This point of the season is about identifying who will be apart of the future, and on Monday Night Football the young core didn't disappoint

Tommy Call
November 12, 2018 - 10:49 pm

Eli Manning’s late touchdown throw to go up 27-23 in the fourth quarter put an exclamation point on what this season is— A losing season. It’s easy to look at all the negatives from the evening. No pass rush, penalties and another blown lead. Yes, those are red flags, but when your team sits at 2-8 the season comes down to evaluation and finding players who will be apart of the future— on Monday Night Football the youngin’s did not disappoint.

Saquon Barkley was already getting fitted for his Giants jersey by the time the 49ers were on the clock, but during draft season last year some fans were hoping Barkley would fall to the 49ers. Tonight Matt Breida, who went undrafted proved there isn’t a need to draft a running back in the top-10.

Breida is quietly putting together a breakout season and tonight he outperformed Barkley on four less touches. Breida is putting it all together and it was all on display. Breida caught three of his four targets including one acrobatic touchdown reception. It was Breida’s second touchdown catch and sixth total touchdown of the season. Breida also saw a career high in usage on Monday night, showing Shanahan’s faith in the young running back. One thing that has been particularly impressive about about Breida’s development is his patience in the hole— a rare trait that we’ve seen from successful running backs like Le’veon Bell and Alvin Kamara. There was a ton of buzz in the offseason about the addition of Jerick Mckinnon, but if Breida continues to produce at this rate he’ll be listed as RB one when Jimmy Garoppolo returns next season.

 

Speaking of Garoppolo, the competition for his number one weapon when he returns is already over. George Kittle has already proved he’s one of the 49ers best young players, but now he’s showing the league he’s the next complete tight end. Kittle skill set creates mismatches which gives Shanahan room to stretch his playbook. Everything isn’t put together with Garoppolo being injured, but once he’s healthy Kittle will be a pillar of Shanahan’s offense.

Another pillar being built in the 49ers lost season is Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey has arguably the 49ers best offseason acquisition. Running behind McGlinchey has been one of the strengths of the 49ers offseason and on Monday Night, he was dominant again. McGlinchey is one of the most important pieces to the 49ers future as he’ll be the protector of Garoppolo, something he looks completely capable of doing.

 

Another rookie stood out Monday night, this time on the defensive side of the football. Fred Warner is taking over the middle of the 49ers defense, and tonight he had his best game of a professional. Warner was all over the field racking up four tackles, but his pass coverage was especially impressive. Warner was a converted safety in college, and his pass coverage was on full display against one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Odell Beckham. Warner held tough for two pass breakups in coverage against Warner. Warner was the true standout of the 49ers defense that has been incredibly inconsistent.

While a core group of the young roster all took steps forward against the Giants, there were still some glaring holes from one particular defensive back. While Breida and Warner each had one of their best games, Ahkello Witherspoon had one of his worst games as a sophomore. They’ll be some hiccups with a young corner, but his lack of awareness is becoming a growing concern. Witherspoon failed to get his head around multiple times tonight, then seemed visibly upset when he didn’t have safety help on a Giants touchdown. Witherspoon seemed to be apart of the 49ers young core, but his performance this season is fading his stock. He has six more weeks to prove he’s apart of this team’s future.

It’s incredibly important for these young players to make these development steps for in a lost season, especially for the front office. Production from the young core shows John Lynch, Shanahan and the rest of the front office they can identify talent in the draft. The front office in Santa Clara gets a lot of flack for drafting Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick, but Monday Night against the Giants showed Lynch and company have found some pieces to build on when Garoppolo returns.

Comments ()