49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo injured his calf last week and is officially out after missing practice all week. The 49ers will therefore turn to 3rd overall selection out of North Dakota State, Trey Lance. Lance has only dropped back to pass 25 times this season, so there really isn't much of a point in diving into his numbers, but it's my blog and I'm going to fucking do it anyway. He's averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, completing 52.6% of his passes, and rocking a poor 50.1 PFF grade (despite his 121.1 QB rating, which is a shit stat). Lance in college showed impressive skills on the ground, and although he only dropped back to pass 371 times in his college career (he was injured most of 2020), he was exceptional at keeping the ball out of harm's way through the air. He'll be behind one of the better offensive lines in football -- LT Trent Williams continues to be one of the best in the game, while RT Mike McGlinchey is solid enough where there isn't an edge spot along the edge you can pick on. C Alex Mack has been the weakest point of the line, he's declined in play as he's gotten older (he'll turn 36 next month), but he's still a solid veteran center. The 49ers unfortunately have TE George Kittle (calf) listed as doubtful. When we made the recommendations, I expected Kittle to be healthy enough to play, as was reported on profootballdoc.com. Shit happens. Without Kittle, Deebo Samuel, TE Ross Dwelley, and Brandon Aiyuk will be Lance's preferred targets. Aiyuk has had a poor start to his sophomore season and hopefully will use this opportunity to get back into Kyle Shanahan’s good graces. On the ground, rookies Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon will get the bulk of the carries. The defense has a solid pass rush, led by Arik Armstead (16 pressures), Nick Bosa (15), and Dee Ford (9). The weaknesses surround the cornerback positions, where not a single starter has a PFF grade over 66. In total, the defense is 18th in EPA/play.
Kyler Murray has been one of the better quarterbacks in football, ranking 4th in PFF grades (87.6) while completing 76.1% of his passes (9.2%!! above expectation) and gaining 9.5 yards per attempt. Always a threat to run, Murray ranks 5th of all QBs in total yards, although he's gained just 4.7 yards per attempt. He plays behind a weak offensive line -- my pick would be to go after the ride side (RG Max Garcia and rookie RT Josh Jones). Deandre Hopkins is easily the best receiving option on the Cardinals, and it's hard to imagine the 49ers have the secondary to slow him down -- but the good news is the receiving options behind Hopkins is lacking. Old man AJ Green has been working as the 2nd receiver, with Christian Kirk, RB Chase Edmonds, and rookie Rondale Moore pitching in as well. On defense, Chandler Jones and JJ Watt are a solid 1-2 pass rushing duo, but the rest of the front seven has been poor. A lot of hype went into first round rookie Zaven Collins and first round sophomore year Isaiah Simmons as starting linebackers, but both have struggled against the run and in coverage, showing just a few bright spots as pass rushers. The secondary features a weak trio of corners -- Robert Alford has a 99.5 passer rating when targeted, while Marco Wilson sits at 139.4 (that's a big number). Slot man Byron Murphy has been the lone bright spot. Budda Baker is one of the more impressive safeties in the league -- he's asked to basically do everything outside of rush the passer, and he's good at all of it. The Cardinals are 5th in EPA/play, but they certainly aren't a top 5 defense in the league. They have struggled against the run (19th in EPA/play), which could be a good sign for Trey Lance and the 49ers offensive line.