Neither the New York Giants nor the San Francisco 49ers have much to brag about this season, with a combined record of 1-16. Let’s learn more about this week’s opponent for the Giants. David Fucillo of SB Nation’s Niners Nation answers our “Five Questions” this week.
Ed: Let's get the Jimmy Garoppolo stuff out of the way. A two-parter. Are you OK with the 49ers not playing him this Sunday against the Giants? What do you make of the stuff we've been hearing about San Francisco perhaps not signing him to a long-term deal?
David: I am comfortable with the 49ers not playing him on Sunday simply because of the team's injury report. They are expected to get left tackle Joe Staley back after their Week 11 bye, and they have a host of offensive players dealing with various injuries. I think Garoppolo could survive in spite of that, but given the potential investment in him, I see no reason to rush this thing. It sounds like he is making progress learning the playbook, and his starting status will be predicated primarily on that. If it takes through the bye week, I can live with that.
I think the talk about not signing him is just part of the normal negotiation dance. That's not to say this will be a walk in the park getting a deal done, because given his lack of experience and upcoming free agency, it's complicated. Do you give him a huge deal? A shorter prove-it deal? Something else? It's complicated, but I think the 49ers and Garoppolo can get a deal done. Garoppolo is the guy they seem to want right now, and I think they get a deal done.
Ed: Despite the 0-9 record, are there things that make you optimistic about the 49ers' future? If so, what are they?
David: The team entered this season very clearly entering a rebuilding process. Sure, fans expected more than an 0-9 start to the season, but few people were deluded into thinking this team might be competitive for a playoff spot. Instead, we have seen a team that has had relatively close losses in six games, and fairly ugly losses in three games. Wins would be great, but given the state of the team, high draft picks are important. There's no guarantee the team will hit on the picks, but a top two or three pick at the very least gives the team a chance to deal down in the first round, and potentially deal up from the second round.
The team acquired Jimmy Garoppolo a week and a half ago, and while he has yet to play in a game, it's the first time since Colin Kaepernick signed his contract extension that people feel like there could be an answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Shortly after Kaepernick signed his extension, things went south, with Jim Harbaugh eventually leaving, retirements and injuries scuttling the talent around Kaepernick, and the quarterback himself dealing with inconsistency and injuries. All that is to say, Garoppolo has a lot of work in front of him, but there is optimism.
On the defensive side of the ball, young players like DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Jaquiski Tartt, and Reuben Foster could provide a strong foundation upon which to build. The 2017 draft in particular is already paying dividends, with potential starters emerging in a variety of areas. Already, the first three picks are in the starting lineup, and they have gotten solid contributions from fourth and fifth round picks. It's a big step in the right direction.
Ed: What are your thoughts on Kyle Shanahan as a head coach?
David: It's been an interesting first nine months. It's hard to assess his work with the offense given the injuries and roster turnover. He was brought in to revive this offense, and that is a work in progress. However, given some of the criticisms about him as far as his emotional maturity, he's off to a strong start. He and John Lynch are generally very honest when it comes to transactions. Shanahan is open to talking Xs and Os, as opposed to some coaches that pretend they are protecting nuclear secrets. Even as things have been a struggle, his relationship with the media seems fine. A lot of that is window-dressing when it comes to what really matters, but when an organization is as deep in the rebuilding process as the 49ers, you look for the little things.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants NOT NAMED ODELL BECKHAM JR. (he's on IR, anyway) who would it be? Why?
David: On offense I'd grab Evan Engram. The 49ers need play-makers and Engram would add some depth at tight end. He and George Kittle would pair to make for a moderately dangerous tight end duo. On defense, I'm thinking we add veteran edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. The 49ers pass rush has been inconsistent, and JPP would currently lead the 49ers in sacks. It's that bad.
Ed: Who are some relatively unknown players for the 49ers that Giants fans should be aware of on Sunday?
David: On offense, keep an eye out for the 49ers receivers. They're all mostly unknown. Louis Murphy (signed this week) and Marquise Goodwin are the most experienced. If the 49ers are going to break a huge gain on a pass play, Goodwin is the guy who will do it. Rookie receiver Victor Bolden handles kick and punt return duties now that Trent Taylor is out. Bolden has speed, so keep an eye out for him in the return game.
On defense, the two starting cornerbacks remain under the radar. Dontae Johnson is in the final year of his rookie contract, while Ahkello Witherspoon was a third round pick this year. They are going to get burned at times, but both are showing signs of solid play. Neither looks like a clear No. 1 cornerback, but if the team were to invest a high pick or big free agent bucks in a No. 1 corner, they'd be in great shape behind him. You can also keep an eye out for free safety Adrian Colbert. The seventh round pick came in as a cornerback but was getting work at safety as well to provide depth. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt were both lost for the season, and so Colbert is now the starting free safety.