The 49ers finished their first half of the year with perhaps their best game off the season in a 31-14 win over the Rams. Their seven weeks prior to that were much more tumultuous though, and simply repeating their 4-4 first half won’t likely be enough to score them a playoff spot in a crowded NFC playoff picture. It certainly won’t be enough to win them division.
So how can the 49ers stay on track? One aspect will simply come down to player performance, and there are a handful of players who could help San Francisco secure either a division crown or a playoff spot by putting together better second-half performances.
WR Deebo Samuel
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Samuel was by no means bad in the first half of the year, but last season he would take over games in a way he didn’t over the first eight contests. This year Samuel has 32 catches for 387 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also has a touchdown and 138 rushing yards on 24 carries to average a total of 9.4 yards per touch. It’s undeniable that he had a good first half, and his 57-yard catch-and-run against the Rams in Week 4 was the best play before the bye week. For the 49ers offense to reach its ceiling though, Samuel has to be elite like he was a year ago when he averaged 13.0 yards per touch.
DE Samson Ebukam
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Ebukam is another player who had a pretty good first half. He has 22 pressures and 3.5 sacks in eight games. The end of last season showed Ebukam has what it takes to be excellent in San Francisco’s defense though. Over the final eight games last year, including the postseason, he had 31 pressures and 8.0 sacks per Pro Football Focus. If he can get back to that form again in the second half this year, the 49ers’ defense will regain the form that had it on a historic pace over the first five weeks.
RT Mike McGlinchey
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Consistency is the key for McGlinchey, who has a handful of plays per game that are mostly disastrous. PFF has him down for five sacks allowed already and 14 pressures. His career-high for sacks allowed is six. The run blocking will likely come along as he continues playing and getting reps after missing half of last season with a quad injury. The pass blocking is a concern though, and he has to be better in all facets in the last eight games. Even a minor improvement from McGlinchey would make life a lot easier for the 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
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It’s understandable Garoppolo got off to a slow start. He got better as he played though and had one of the best games he’s had in a long time in Week 8 when he completed 84 percent of his throws with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Garoppolo is like McGlinchey in that consistency is the biggest problem. If he plays for the rest of the year like he did against the Rams, the 49ers offense is going to take off. Just keeping turnovers down and turning negative plays into neutral or positive plays with throwaways and checkdowns would help Garoppolo elevate the offense.