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If anyone thinks the 49ers are having a rough start to the year, they should just take a quick gander at our preseason predictions.
Not only are the majority of picks way off, but a number of them have no chance of happening, and several others are on life support.
While our preseason predictions don’t matter, their tenor tended to reflect a really good year for San Francisco. The fact the projections are so far off is an indicator of how the season has been for the 49ers. Injuries have derailed some of their top players, and others have just fallen short of expectations.
Let’s take a look back at our predictions and see if there’s any chance of salvaging them:
Prediction: Brandon Aiyuk leads team in receiving
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Welp! This one is not off to a great start. It would be one thing if Deebo Samuel’s huge year was simply limiting Aiyuk some, but the second-year receiver has been a non-factor on offense. He’s fifth on the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards, and finds himself behind 32-year-old Mohamed Sanu and fullback Kyle Juszczyk in all those categories. It’s highly unlikely this pick comes to fruition.
Prediction: George Kittle sets career-high in TDs
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
This is another one of the 49ers’ perplexing offensive issues. Kittle missed Week 5 and is on injured reserve with a calf injury, but prior to his injury he’d yet to find the end zone in four games. He had 28 targets and 19 catches in that time, but he was missing the explosive plays he turned into touchdowns in past years. He also wasn’t getting a ton of red zone looks. When he returns from IR the 49ers need to figure out how to get him more involved in their offense near the end zone.
Prediction: Separate rushing leaders
(AP Photo/Jeff Lewis)
This two-fold pick has been derailed by two separate issues. We picked Raheem Mostert to lead the team in rushing yards and Trey Sermon to lead the team in carries. Mostert got hurt on his second touch of the year and will have season-ending surgery. Sermon was a healthy scratch in the opener, earned just one carry in Week 2, and through Week 5 he’s at just 31 carries. The good news for our prediction is that he’s only 14 behind Elijah Mitchell for the team lead. The bad news is Mitchell, when healthy, appears to be the No. 1 back by a wide margin.
Prediction: Fred Warner sets career-high in sacks
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Warner’s career-high in sacks is 3.0 – a number he hit during the 2019 season. New defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans talked a lot in the preseason about a more aggressive, attacking defense. The idea for this prediction was that we’d see more blitzing from the second level. It turns out Warner is rushing the passer on a career-low 4.7 percent of his snaps. The fascinating thing is his pass rush rate in 2019 was just 4.8 percent. San Francisco’s defensive line was better against Arizona, and if that group gets going, it may make Warner’s blitzes more effective even if they’re not as a frequent. We’re not punting on this prediction just yet even if it’s not off to a great start.
Prediction: Jimmy Garoppolo keeps the starting job
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
This one is on track to hold up going into the bye week. Garoppolo didn’t start in Week 5 because of a calf injury, but head coach Kyle Shanahan appears ready to reinsert Garoppolo as the starter once he recovers from his ailment. One holdup could be the 49ers’ place in the standings. They’ve lost consecutive Garoppolo starts and the offense hasn’t been good since racking up 41 points in the season opener. If they’re way out of the playoff hunt, a change under center could come. It looks like the 49ers will stick with their starter as long as they’re in the playoff hunt though so this prediction may be reliant on some 49ers wins.
Prediction: Jimmie Ward gets an interception
(AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
He’s gotten close! There’ve been multiple chances for picks that Ward just hasn’t been able to get hands on. We’re not backing off this one.
Prediction: Four DL over 5.0 sacks
(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)
Some defensive linemen need to get going if we’re going to get to this one. Nick Bosa has gotten to 5.0 already. Dee Ford has 3.0 sacks. Kentavius Street, Arik Armstead and DJ Jones all have 1.0 each. Armstead got close a number of times against the Cardinals and Kyler Murray, and he’s been a step or two late on some others. The disappointing member of the DL so far has been Samson Ebukam. He’s struggled finding his feet in a new role and he’s generated only three pressures with no sacks in five games. There’s a chance he racks up a few once he gets used to the new scheme so we’re not giving up on this just yet, but it’s going to take a couple heroic efforts on the defensive front to get it done.
Prediction: Jason Verrett makes the Pro Bowl
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Verrett went down with a torn ACL during the third quarter of Week 1. It was a devastating blow for him and the 49ers’ secondary. They’re still trying to recover from losing their best cornerback.
Prediction: Over 10 wins
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
This is far from out of reach. A 10-win finish would only require San Francisco to go 8-4 the rest of the way. They also have a slew of winnable games down the stretch. If they find their offensive footing, and their defense continues trending the way it played in Week 5, the 49ers have a great shot at reaching or eclipsing the 10-win mark.