JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2023 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area on the San Francisco 49ers’ matchup with the Jaguars at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Question: The 49ers, like the Jaguars, are coming off their bye week. They are 5-3 with losses in their last three games to the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals. Assess the 49ers entering Sunday.
Answer: It's the cliche that the bye comes at the perfect time. Everybody always says that. I think maybe for the 49ers, it's kind of like that. They appear to have helped themselves from a roster standpoint because they got [defensive end] Chase Young [in a trade last Tuesday with the Washington Commanders] and didn't have to give up much to get him. Then from a psyche standpoint, it probably helped them to get away and kind of figure some things out – probably mostly on the defensive side, where [first-year defensive coordinator] Steve Wilks is still trying to kind of find his way with a defense that isn't his and a staff that isn't his. Then [wide receiver] Deebo Samuel and [left tackle] Trent Williams basically get two weeks to heal. Both of them to my knowledge are expected to be back out there on the field Sunday. So I think the bye helped the 49ers on so many different levels.
Q: Is the 49ers' season as simple as "They were great at 5-0 and then they got hurt?"
A: There's more than that. They were playing very well. They beat the Dallas Cowboys [42-10 in Week 5]. I never got the feeling they got too full of themselves, but certainly they were hearing how great they were. I also think after that game, the Browns really put together a good plan to beat the 49ers. I think a lot of it has been kind of replicated by the Vikings and then the Bengals. There are a lot of factors at play. Teams maybe found some vulnerabilities with the 49ers, and the injuries to Williams and Samuel did not help. They also have been turning the ball over. [Quarterback] Brock Purdy over the past 10 quarters has thrown five interceptions. It hasn't been just one thing. And it really has been on both sides of the ball where they haven't done as well.
Q: You mentioned Purdy. Assess him through eight games.
A: He has been really good, like shockingly good. Even in the last three games where they've lost, he has made some plays that cost them dearly, but he also made some high-level throws. He just has this sense of timing, anticipation. He has the locker room, the coaching staff. They love him. He has been a really good player. Basically, he's the reason that they decided, "You know what? We're going to move on from Trey Lance."
Q: What are they offensively when they're right?
A: Really good. Because they have so many different guys who can do different things. You have Christian McCaffrey, who's a running back who runs routes like a wide receiver. Then you have Samuel, who's a wide receiver who they can put in the backfield and he can run like a running back. [Wide receiver] Brandon [Aiyuk] is a very good player. [Tight end] George Kittle is a very good player. If there's a vulnerability on the offense, it's their interior offensive line. But when they're rolling, when they have their pieces, when [Head Coach Kyle] Shanahan's dialing it up, it's a very good offense.
Q: You mentioned defense. They're adjusting to a new coordinator.
A: They're kind of scuffling defensively. A lot of it is third downs. They've had really good nickelback play here the past half dozen years, and this year they're kind of finding their way there. Isaiah Oliver came in as a free agent from the [Atlanta] Falcons, and he has been good in run support and tackling, but he just is not a great cover guy, so they're going to have to figure out some things how they want to do in this defense. Their third-down defense, the pass rush hasn't been getting home. I know that the pressure numbers are really good, but it hasn't seemed to really translate. There are third-down plays where it just seems too easy for the offense. Too many easy pitch and catches. They just need to really tighten up some stuff on the back end. Obviously the reason they went out and got Chase Young is that he will supply enough pressure that it really helps those guys in the defensive backfield as well.
Q: Final question. You've been doing this a long time. You've covered a lot of great and good teams. Is this a great one? Can they do it?
A: They can do it, but I always hesitate to even go there because it's been a while since they've added to the trophy case. That conversation doesn't start until you win a Lombardi. They have been close three of the past four seasons, to the final four three of the past four years. They have a really good formula. Something has always happened – and in the last two years, injuries to the quarterback. There are some obvious concerns and vulnerabilities that have shown up over the past three games, but there's no question if you're ranking rosters the talent on the 49ers' roster will match up against anybody. I'd say as the second half of the season starts, they're probably in just about as good a position as anybody.