These two teams last met in 2018, in what was a thrilling, back-and-forth game on Monday night that came down to the final play. But that was Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. against Nick Mullens and Matt Breida. Suffice it to say, a lot has changed since then.
Although the 49ers failed to capture the Lombardi Trophy in February, they remain an incredibly talented team.
San Francisco 49ers
Key Losses: DL DeForest Buckner, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Marquise Goodwin
Key free agent signings: WR Travis Benjamin
Draft picks: DL Javon Kinlaw, WR Brandon Aiyuk, OT Colton McKivitz, TE Charlie Woerner, WR Jauan Jennings
Despite the possibility of a lingering Super Bowl hangover, the 49ers will pose an immense challenge for the Giants. Well, at least defensively.
Nick Bosa dominated last year and took home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He ended his rookie year with 13 total sacks (nine in the regular season, four in the playoffs). There’s really not much that Bosa doesn’t excel at. He consistently creates pressure on passing downs, manufactures penetration in the run game and has active hands to break up check-down passes. He’s fast and athletic enough to chase down scrambling quarterbacks, too.
The 49ers utilize Bosa on both sides of the line, which means Giants’ rookie tackle Andrew Thomas will see the vaunted pass-rusher one way or another. The first three weeks of the season will be a great test for Thomas, as he’ll be seeing T.J. Watt, Khalil Mack and Bosa.
And to make matters worse for the Giants, they don’t have to just worry about Bosa on the 49ers defense.
Richard Sherman re-established himself as one of the NFL’s premier corners a season ago. He may not have the speed to deal with faster receivers, but Sherman undoubtedly impacts a game.
Other 49ers to watch for on defense are defensive ends Arik Armstead and Dee Ford and linebacker Fred Warner. Losing DeForest Buckner hurts, but the 49ers’ defense remains stout throughout all units.
Head coach Joe Judge recently said his offense will share traits from the one Jason Garrett ran in Dallas.
Judge: Offense will be similar to what Jason garrett ran in Dallas but will "cater to our players."— Big Blue View (@bigblueview) May 12, 2020
And it’s clear to see based on the current roster complexion that tight ends figure to be a significant factor. One would assume the Giants would implement a lot of multiple tight end sets against the 49ers to try to slow down their pass-rushers.
On offense, the 49ers are much more unsettled.
The team lost two of its top three receivers from a year ago. The 49ers traded Marquise Goodwin to the Eagles, while Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Saints. The decision to jettison Goodwin and not retain Sanders wasn’t one without merit, however. Deebo Samuel should build on a strong rookie campaign and rookie Brandon Aiyuk will likely play a large role.
While divisive among the football community, Jimmy Garoppolo won’t consistently make errant decisions that harm his team. He may be more of a game manager than a game-breaker, but Garoppolo has proven he can steer his team to victories. And he now has a new anchor at left tackle to protect him, as the 49ers acquired Trent Williams from the Redskins via trade. Although Williams hasn’t played a snap since 2018 and will be 32 by kickoff, it’s tough to overlook his presence on the 49ers’ offensive line.
The most alarming component of the 49ers’ offense, if you’re a Giants fan, is tight end George Kittle. Kittle is an absolute monster and totaled 1,053 yards last year. The Giants have routinely struggled against tight ends over the past decade. Kittle is one of the NFL’s most dominant tight ends, and the Giants are going to have to be very efficient in limiting Kittle’s touches.
If the Giants’ offensive game plan gets disrupted by San Francisco’s imposing defense early on, it’ll be interesting to see how much the team will alter their scheme.
While beating the reigning NFC Champions would be Joe Judge’s first marquee win, the Giants will unquestionably have their work cut out for them come Week 3.