With the New York Giants facing the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, we turn to SB Nation’s Niners Nation for our weekly ‘5 questions’ segment. Ryan Bainbridge answers our meddlesome questions.
Ed: The numbers, and the points SF is scoring, would indicate Brock Purdy is playing really well. Yet, there seem to be lingering concerns. What are your thoughts on Purdy?
Ryan: Purdy has far exceeded expectations of his draft position and 49ers fans have fully embraced Mr. Relevant as he continues to punch above his weight. Any lingering concerns about his elbow injury from last year’s NFC Championship game should be put to bed following his hot start to this season. While it is likely still in the back of most 49ers fans minds, he is fully healthy and has picked up where he left off at the end of last season. Purdy runs Kyle Shanahan’s offensive system very well and I think that is why he hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves. Hell, Nick Mullens has the second-most passing yards in his first 16 starts in NFL history primarily due to Shanahan’s system. But Purdy adds an element of creativity that we haven’t seen from a 49ers quarterback in the Shanahan era. He continually makes the right reads and when plays or the pocket break down he can extend plays. Most importantly, he rarely puts the ball in harms way. But it would be foolish to say there aren’t some physical shortcomings. Last week he struggled throwing accurately deep and missed some open touchdown passes. It’s hard to not be confident in Purdy while still feeling like the magic may wear off at some point. Regardless, he’s made it incredibly fun to tune in to San Francisco games every Sunday.
Ed: Is anything short of a Super Bowl appearance a disappointment for the 49ers this season?
Ryan: Barring any sort of bad luck with injuries (knock on wood), it would be disappointing to get so close to the big game and not make it once again. The NFC is a better conference than I think many pundits thought heading into the season, so there will be plenty of challenges come January. Philadelphia and Dallas both look like the real deal. A few 2-0 teams don’t necessarily feel like contenders right now (WAS, ATL, TB) but there are always surprises. I think right now the focus is to get the one seed and home-field advantage locked up to make a run through the playoffs as easy as possible.
Ed: If you could take one Giant and put him in San Francisco’s already-loaded lineup, who would it be? Why?
Ryan: This is a tough one because I really like a lot of the moves the Giants have made, especially in the draft the past few years. I think Evan Neal will turn out to be a really good right tackle and that is an area of concern for the 49ers, but the Alabama product hasn’t quite reached his potential yet. Dexter Lawrence has become an absolute beast in the middle of their defensive line, but San-Fran already added a dominant tackle in Javon Hargrave this offseason. Instead, I’ll add Kayvon Thibodeaux to rush opposite of Nick Bosa. Second-year pro Drake Jackson had three sacks in the opener and he and Clelin Ferrell have provided enough juice to help the front four generate consistent pressure, but neither have the pedigree of Thibodeaux.
Ed: Any injury or other personnel concerns for the 49ers heading into Thursday?
Ryan: Brandon Aiyuk is dealing with a shoulder injury and did not practice Monday. This apparently occurred in the first quarter of the Rams game and Aiyuk played through it, so not entirely sure if it will hold him out Thursday. Cornerback Ambry Thomas was limited with a knee injury that took him out against LA but he did return and should be expected to play Thursday as well.
Ed: What, if anything, concerns you about the Giants? If they are going to have a chance to win, how are they going to have to get that done?
Ryan: New York has one of the best defensive lines in the league. If Thibodeaux, Lawrence, and company can stop the 49ers running game and put pressure on Purdy, they will have a chance to win this game for sure. San Francisco’s offensive line has been shaky, despite the offensive output through two weeks. Right tackle Colton McKivitz got beat up against TJ Watt week one, and he and right guard Spencer Buford have sub-50 PFF pass block grades. There are quite a few mismatches I think Shanahan will be able to exploit if the passing game has time to operate, but the Giants talent in the trenches could cause some trouble.