The injury bug bit San Francisco the hardest of all teams last Sunday. Nick Bosa wasn’t the only Niners D-lineman to tear his ACL, as former No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas suffered the same fate. Meanwhile, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Raheem Mostert and RB Tevin Coleman all sustained leg injuries of varying degrees of seriousness. All of this attrition is clouding forecasts for the Niners. Here are two things I’ll be tracking specifically in the next few weeks:
1) Replacing edge defender Nick Bosa is going to be very difficult. Bosa ranks fifth in the NFL in total QB pressures (61) since entering the league in 2019. And it’s very easy to see his impact when you compare San Francisco’s pass rush in this span with Bosa vs. without him. In the 479 opponent dropbacks with Bosa, per Next Gen Stats, the 49ers have allowed a completion percentage of 60.6, while accumulating a pressure rate of 27.3 and a sack rate of 9.0. In the 162 dropbacks without Bosa, the completion percentage rises to 65.6, while the pressure (17.9) and sack (4.9) rates both plummet. Now imagine how much of a shift happens with layering in the impact of Thomas’ season-ending injury, as well. Interesting note: The loss of Bosa shifted the Niners’ rest-of-season win total down further than the loss of Saquon Barkley did to the Giants’ win total. This is primarily due to the more difficult first-place schedule for San Francisco, as well as the 49ers’ place in the league’s toughest division.
2) San Francisco’s run game is EVERYTHING — at least until the quarterback and pass catchers are healthier. The Niners are currently best suited to play with a lead, and not be forced into heavy passing-game scripts. Through two games, San Francisco’s running backs boast a +99 in RYOE (rushing yards over expected), which is the third-highest total in the NFL. Using computer vision, I can see that the pre-snap alignments and efficient O-line play (like shifts and exceptionally executed blocking schemes) really help fuel the ground attack, which is averaging 5.65 yards per carry (third in the NFL). The Niners must continue to effectively pound the rock in order to navigate around major injury blows.