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49ers mailbag: Chase Young to SF. Sam Darnold time? What’s happened to the defense?

Marc Adams
Nov 1, 2023 at 7:47 AM--

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The news broke on Tuesday afternoon that the San Francisco 49ers have traded a third-round pick to the Washington Commanders in exchange for edge rusher Chase Young. This will most assuredly help the 49ers struggling pass rush. Young is one of the league's premier guys at getting after the quarterback. Now opposing defensive coordinators will have to figure out how to block Young, Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave, Randy Gregory, and Arik Armstead. That should be fun for them.

We always love hearing from 49ers fans when we do our weekly 49ers Webzone Mailbag. When the 49ers win, we have a good amount of questions and reactions. But when the 49ers lose, there are always a lot more questions and responses...usually angry ones.

And when there is a multi-game losing streak, sometimes there are many more angry comments and questions than we can get to. Such is the current state of the mailbag, which is brimming with ire, and so I've done my best to address questions (and a comment or two) in hopes of bringing some comfort to a hurting community.

It won't get much easier out of the bye for the 49ers, as Aaron Banks is dealing with a turf toe injury and could miss a few games. Deebo Samuel could very well miss the Jacksonville game, and Trent Williams will probably be questionable heading into it. The trade for Young will hopefully help the defense enough to lessen the blows to the offense.

Let's hop into the mailbag and see what's on your mind.

I had faith in the 49ers before the game but now I'm not sure. Was it wise to start Purdy? Their offensive scheme is supposed to be able to work with almost any quarterback, so why not try Darnold? It couldn't hurt, and with the team going in a downward trend, Purdy not having good games or numbers, and having turnovers at crucial times, why not make a change? It could have turned things around for them like Purdy did last year. - Robert G.

Brock Purdy was cleared to play, and he reportedly felt fine. So I think it was okay to start Purdy. I'm not sure it was wise of Purdy to keep diving headfirst instead of sliding on some of his runs, though.

As for making a change to Sam Darnold, I don't see the upside. Sure, Darnold has a better arm. But he's not as mobile as Purdy. Darnold also doesn't process as quickly as Purdy. I realize Purdy has turned the ball over several times in recent weeks, but he's still a young player learning the position. Darnold is not as young, and his career has been mired with mistakes. In my opinion, Darnold makes the 49ers worse.

I would also argue with Robert's comment that Purdy has not had good numbers in the last couple of weeks. In Minnesota, Purdy was 21-30 for 272 yards with a touchdown. Against the Bengals, Purdy had even better numbers, completing 22 of 31 for 365 yards and a touchdown. Yes, he's thrown four interceptions in the past two games, but his other numbers have actually been good. The offense has moved the ball well. They just haven't been finishing like they were earlier in the season.

Again, this is a young QB who has only played 16 games of his NFL career. He's going to make mistakes. Did you happen to catch Jimmy Garoppolo on Monday night? He's not a young player with only 16 games of experience. In fact, Garoppolo leads the NFL in interceptions thrown, with nine (in only six games). Eagles QB Jalen Hurst has thrown eight interceptions this season. He's also fumbled the ball three times. And he's supposed to be a league MVP-type player.

Here are a few other QBs who have thrown more picks than Purdy this season: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, and Tua Tagovailoa. That's not to say Purdy is better than those guys, but only to illustrate the fact that quarterbacks throw interceptions. Even the best of them.

Brock Purdy ain't it. - Juice

You can tell that from only 16 games?

Where is the team from Weeks 1-5? - John F.

They've gone missing and have been replaced by a group of average football players. It's strange. Are injuries catching up to them? They've been without Christian McCaffrey, Samuel, and Williams for a portion of the losing streak.

Is the schedule not favoring them? Consecutive trips to the midwest (Cleveland, Minnesota), playing two teams that are coming off a bye (Browns, Bengals), playing on a Monday night, and then traveling back home to play a rested team on a short week. Kyle Shanahan said his team looked slow and tired. He's right.

There have been plenty of uncharacteristic mistakes during the losing streak like Purdy throwing a pick near his goal line when he shouldn't have even thrown the ball because he had an ineligible man downfield, Brandon Ayiuk and George Kittle dropping multiple passes, the defense missing tackles that included Dre Greenlaw missing multiple tackles on Sunday. There have been plenty of mistakes.

But they somehow need to push through this. That's why the bye week comes at the perfect time. And it's a safe bet that the trade for Young will breathe some new life into this team.

Kalia Davis sits inactive every week while the run defense is a sieve. Why? In camp, he looked like a good run stuffer. - DownByLaw

Kalia Davis missed some time in training camp, with a hamstring issue. Even before the 49ers started holding him out, I wasn't hearing much about him. I'm just not sure he was jumping out at anyone. He missed a lot of time with the knee injury, so he's likely behind in his development. I'd assume the coaching staff just doesn't feel he's ready to play.

Who'd you rather have right now on the 49ers: A.) Nick Bosa, or B.) Charles Omenihu, Azeez Al-Shaair, Jimmie Ward, Daniel Brunskill, 2 First Round Picks & 1 Third Round Pick? - Dedalo P.

I love being given a choice here. Let's see.

It's easy to pick "B" right now since Nick Bosa hasn't been playing well. And when you factor in more salary cap flexibility, the two first-round picks make it more tempting. But until this season, Bosa has been one of those super, impactful players you want on your team. And the 49ers don't have the best track record at drafting in the first round.

I'd probably stick with Bosa, but if his play continues to look this way throughout the rest of the season, I could be swayed to change my mind.

Mitchell is not doing it, whereas Mason is. Why not feature Mason and play CMC in the slot more? - Erin B.

It's true that Elijah Mitchell has done very little since his return from injury. He did have a nice block on Sunday, but he's done nothing with the ball in his hands. It's not entirely his fault, though. In the past three games, he's had someone in his face as soon as he's received the handoff. So I'm just not sure what else he's supposed to do.

I agree on Jordan Mason being used more. I don't understand why he isn't getting more reps. He runs hard and always seems to fall forward. My only guess is that these have been close games when the 49ers can't afford to make more mistakes than they've been already making. Mason could be a better running back than Mitchell, but Mitchell protects the ball better than any of the running backs on the team. I have to think that's part of it. And maybe pass protection is another part.

I love the idea of Mason in the backfield and McCaffrey in the slot. We need to see McCaffrey in the slot more often.

Why does Kyle never address the right tackle problem? - Jim G.

Jimmy, is that you? Sorry, I saw Jim G. asking about the right tackle and just assumed.

Either way, Colton McKivitz graded out better than anyone on the offensive line on Sunday. Shocking, I know. But I agree with "Jim" that the 49ers may have made a mistake in not addressing the offensive line more than they have. Williams and Banks are the best of the bunch, and both were investments made by the team. But Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford, and McKivitz were not sizable investments. During the win streak, it wasn't a big issue. But now that the 49ers seem to be struggling to run the ball, and are having to play from behind, it's become a problem.

Where it will show to be an issue the most, however, is in the playoffs when they face a talented defensive line, like the one in Philadelphia.

Are the 49ers going to win another Super Bowl before I die? I'm 46 and type 2 diabetic and not handling THAT very well, so it could be sooner rather than later. - Jason W.

I'm sorry to hear about your health issues, Jason. I hope things turn around for you.

As for your question, we all hope the 49ers win another Super Bowl soon. Who knows? They still could win one this year. This isn't the first year they've struggled in October. In 2022, the 49ers were 3-2 in October, after going 1-2 in September. They finished October 4-4. In 2021, the 49ers were 1-3 in October. That team finished October at 3-4. Both teams would make it all the way to the NFC Championship Game.

So there's still time to turn this around.

Where is our number 1 D? - Henry S.

Wtf happened to our defense from week 5 to week 6? - Steven D.

You have to wonder if the slight differences in Steve Wilks' scheme versus the previous seasons are starting to upset the apple cart, so to speak. The players are making most of the mistakes—missed tackles, dropped interceptions, missed sacks, blown coverages, etc. That's on the players, but how much is Wilks to blame?

Richard Sherman seems to think what Wilks is doing right now is not working, even going as far as saying he should be on the sidelines instead of in the booth, and that there will be changes in the coming week. Does Sherman know something? Is he only assuming? Was he hinting at something like the trade for Young? Or is it something bigger? Stay tuned!

I don't understand how we can go from Superbowl contenders to losing 3 games in a row. What happened? - Patty B.

It's possible the 49ers were never as good as everyone believed. Or maybe the past three games have been a fluke. The most likely reason is that it's just a slump.

In 2021, the 49ers lost four games in a row and five of six. One of those games was a hideous loss to the Colt McCoy-led Arizona Cardinals. That was a low point. But the 49ers weren't as bad as they were playing, and they went on to win seven of their final nine to squeeze into the playoffs.

Last season, the 49ers didn't lose three straight, but they did lose four of their first eight games. Of course, they won their next 10 games.

By the way, in that 2021 loss to the Cardinals, the score was 31-17. Sound familiar?

What's the answer? Kyle says it's in the locker room. How does this get fixed? Jacksonville is up next and will not be an opponent to take lightly. - Niner Jim

It's mostly the locker room. The players need to play better and make fewer mistakes. The coaches need to be better, as well. I think these losses are on the entire team. They're the only ones who can fix this.

And yes, Jacksonville is no joke. They're one of the best teams in the NFL. I'll likely pick the 49ers to win that game because I believe they will get right during the bye and turn things around. But I can easily see the Jaguars winning on November 12th. And if you think a three-gaming losing streak is bad, wait until it's four in a row. Especially when one of them is to Trent Baalke's Jags.

Which CBs on IR do we get back soon? Given the poor current CB play, any chance the 49ers mix it up with one of them? - Scott B.

Samuel Womack III and Darrell Luter, Jr. could both be ready to return soon. Shanahan was asked about Luter, Jr. a few weeks ago. He told reporters, "I know he is getting closer. I would guess without me asking, that'd be coming up here in the next few weeks." So Luter, Jr. may be very close to returning. How much can a rookie, who is coming off of an injury, and has not played a snap of training camp, preseason, or regular season going to be able to help? I doubt he'll be able to help much on defense.

Womack was placed on Injured Reserve after sustaining an MCL injury on September 15. He was expected to miss six to eight weeks. The injury did not require surgery. Six weeks from Womack's placement on IR was last week. So it's possible he will be able to return with the team next week.

I would expect Womack to have a better chance of getting on the field than Luter, Jr., due to the fact that he played some last season. But the coaches seem to have soured on Womack some. So if Luter, Jr. can show them something, maybe he can work his way into some playing time with the defense. I'm not sure either will be able to move ahead of Ambry Thomas this season, but at least there's more depth on the way.

Wilks sitting in the booth? Think about it this way. Your coach is on the field giving you a high five, slapping your helmet, all fired up, keeping the momentum, & motivation up. OR YOUR COACH IS IN THE BOOTH. Where's the passion & fun factor? The offense is stagnant that's a direct reflection of head coach Kyle. We can duck & dodge it all but those are the facts and they are undisputed! - Rick G.

Every coach is different and makes those decisions based on how he or she feels most comfortable. There are a lot of coaches who believe it's better to be in the booth because you can see the entire field, coverages, substitutions, etc. Vic Fangio was always in the booth during his time with the 49ers.

Some coaches prefer being on the field to streamline communication and be face-to-face for important moments. Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans both took that route, and both were very demonstrative and energetic. Wilks doesn't seem to have that personality. He's more Fangio-like.

Shanahan did say earlier this week that he and Wilks would discuss this. Matt Maiocco appeared on KNBR on Monday and said he expects to see Wilks move down to the sideline. Maiocco suggested there are advantages to being on the sideline, such as being able to hear thoughts from key defensive players. So I wouldn't be surprised if Wilks changes things up and moves down to field level.

By the way, I love this post from fellow 49ers Webzone contributor, Steph Sanchez. This is good stuff.

That's all we have for the mailbag this week. Check out the podcast version of the mailbag wherever you watch or listen.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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