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49ers mailbag: What was with Brock Purdy’s black elbow sleeve in Seattle? Who will be the x-factor to beat Philly? How will SF beat the Eagles?

Marc Adams
Nov 29, 2023 at 8:25 AM--

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The San Francisco 49ers are saying it's just another game, as they prepare to travel to Philadelphia to take on the NFC-leading Eagles. But for the fanbase, this isn't just another game. It's Eagles' week. This game means a lot in the NFC standings, of course. But there's also a sense of payback. The team may say it's not the case, but the fans would disagree.

We solicited your questions for our latest edition of the 49ers Webzone Mailbag, and you came through. So let's jump in and see what's on your mind.

I noticed Brock Purdy was wearing an elbow sleeve on his repaired right elbow. Is he having issues with his elbow? This is the first time I have seen him wearing this sleeve. - Craig L.

I noticed the same thing during the Seattle game. It was a shot of Brock Purdy on the sideline wearing some kind of black sleeve on his surgically repaired elbow. I don't think it's the first time he's worn the device, but since it was shown on the telecast shortly after he threw the interception that was returned for a touchdown, it probably stirred a little more concern than it should have.

Just to be sure, I reached out to Dr. Nirav Pandya, an orthopedic surgeon from UCSF, to ask if he saw the sleeve, and knew what it might be. Dr. Pandya told me, "Marc, it looks like a heating/compression device that helps to keep the arm warm and relieve muscle tightness between offensive series. I couldn't tell the exact brand but that would be my best guess based on what it looked like."

Matt Barrows, of "The Athletic," released his own mailbag on Tuesday. In it, he answered a very similar question regarding Purdy's sleeve, and if the QB is having issues with his elbow. Barrows wrote, "No, he's not having any issues. It's a heating device, not a compression device something he's started using now that it's late fall and the temperature is dropping. He used it during both the Buccaneers and Seahawks games, for example."

Barrows quoted Purdy, himself, who said, "As it's gotten colder, I use it to keep my arm warm. It's nothing in terms of the arm hurting or anything like that. It's just basically like a heat pack."

So it sounds like it's more for keeping his arm warm. Nothing to worry about. Rest easy, 49ers fans.

Coming off a perfect QB rating, skeptics are still not convinced with the same rebuttals. What must Purdy do to get his "flowers"? - Justin W.

Purdy doesn't really need to convince anyone. All that matters is what his coaches and teammates believe about him. And they seem convinced that he is the guy who can lead them to the Promised Land.

But if Purdy is going to squelch some of his detractors, he can start doing so by beating the Eagles in Philadelphia. If he can do that, and out-duel Jalen Hurts, some of the noise will quiet down. The other thing that would help is bringing his team back late in a game to win it. I know he essentially did that in Cleveland, but since Jake Moody missed the field goal that would have won it, Purdy hasn't received the credit for it.

His critics never seem to mention the small sample size, and the fact that Purdy is rarely behind. But let's start with beating Hurts and the Eagles on the road. That will go a long way in silencing the skeptics.

Beyond the standings, how important is this game this week to the mindset of the team? - Niner Jim

This game is really important even beyond the standings. If the 49ers can go into Philadelphia and knock off the Eagles, it will give them added confidence should they meet again in the playoffs. I can remember in 1994 when the 49ers had to get past the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers had lost three straight to the Cowboys, and Dallas had won the last two Super Bowls, knocking the 49ers out of the playoffs both times.

But when the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the regular season in 1994, it proved they could do it. So when the two teams met up in the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers already had the upper hand of having beaten Dallas once that season.

I think that's important.

Hi Marc, which player will be the X Factor to beat the Eagles? (1 on offense and 1 on defense). Thanks. - Jose

On offense, I think it will be:

1a. Christian McCaffrey- The Eagles defense can be susceptible to a good running game. I would expect Shanahan to try to run the ball a lot.
1b. Brandon Aiyuk- The Bills had a lot of receivers wide-open against the Eagles. And no one schemes receivers open better than Shanahan.

On defense, the x-factor will be:

1a. Fred Warner- Stop the Eagles' run game, especially Hurts.
1b. Dre Greenlaw- See 1a.

The 49ers have seen how the Chiefs and Bills failed at winning against Philadelphia. What do the 49ers do differently to beat the Eagles? - Ed H.

  1. Run the ball.
  2. Stop the run.
  3. Hit the open receivers (unlike Josh Allen).
  4. Catch the ball (unlike the Chiefs).

I really think that if the 49ers can protect Purdy, and protect the football, they'll win this game. The Eagles are really good, but they're not unbeatable. And when the 49ers play their game, they're hard to beat.

Who are the current options the 49ers could look to add for depth at the safety position? -49ersForLife

On Tuesday, the 49ers added veteran safety Erik Harris to the practice squad. He's played a lot of special teams, so I would assume that would be his primary role.

Will Harris be the number three safety though? Will the 49ers do anything else at safety? Over the weekend, I threw out some possible replacements for George Odum at the position, namely Tayler Hawkins, Isaiah Oliver, Jaquiski Tartt, Tarvarius Moore, and Dontae Johnson.

What are the realistic expectations for rookie Ji'Ayir Brown replacing Talanoa Hufunga? How much of a leash does he have? - Justin W.

I think Ji'Ayir Brown will make some mistakes, as all rookies do. But I also think he will make a lot of plays, too. In his last two games, he's had good plays (like the interception), and he's had some bad ones (like the missed tackle in Seattle). I think he'll be fine, but I wouldn't expect him to play at the level of Talanoa Hufanga just yet.

By Feb. the 49ers might have played their NFCCG opponent (Phi/Dal) and their SB opponent in the regular season (Baltimore). How epic would that postseason be? D. Case

That would be interesting, and it very well could happen. Baltimore may be the best team in the AFC. Imagine if the 49ers went through the Cowboys and Eagles, only to meet the Ravens in the Super Bowl again.

At least there's no Michael Crabtree to throw the ball to with the game on the line.

WR Depth (excluding TE/RB). Deebo, Aiyuk, Jennings, McCloud, Bell. With Gray due back, who is the odd man out? I'd love to see Bell get more targets. - Jordan

The problem for Ronnie Bell (and probably Danny Gray) is that the 49ers demand their WRs block in the run game. My guess is those two don't do it well, and that's why they haven't played as much on offense. If Gray gets activated, I'd say Bell is the odd man out if Gray gets to play. Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, and Ray-Ray McCloud aren't going anywhere.

Still, I think Bell would be ahead of Gray on the depth chart.

Do you think we will go back to a 5-man defensive front this week against the Eagles considering the running prowess of Hurts and Swift? - Brandon G.

Yes, I would expect the 49ers will run some five-man defensive line looks on Sunday. It's not something they'll stay in for most of the game, but we can expect to see that against the Eagles.

Do you believe the 49ers will have more success running the ball OR stopping the run vs Philly this week?? - Thomas H.

The 49ers will likely have more success running the ball. For one thing, the Eagles' defense has been on the field for a lot of snaps in their last two games (over 90 on Sunday).

But I also say that because the Eagles run the ball with Hurts and D'Andre Swift very well. So I would expect more success from the 49ers' run game than from the run defense.

The hit that Brock took against Reddick last year was mainly because of a bad play call (a third-string TE had to run across and try to block). How do you think the O line will do this time around vs the Eagles D line? - Andy G.

Back in the offseason, I asked John Chapman, of the 49ers Rush Podcast, what he thought of the play. He said what the 49ers did on that play is pretty common, using a tight end the way the 49ers used Tyler Kroft on that play. Chapman said the problem was that not only did Kroft miss his block, but Mike McGlinchey missed his block, as well. So I don't think the play call was as bad as the execution was.

The 49ers offensive line will still have issues with Philadelphia's defensive line. But that defensive line isn't as good as they were last year, so it shouldn't be the disaster it was in the NFC Championship Game.

Do you think Bell will get a chance to return kicks? I know it's Ray-Ray's job but he doesn't really get us the best field position. - Andy G.

I don't feel like Ray-Ray McCloud is doing that bad of a job (other than the fumble last Thursday). He's only averaging 8.4 yards per punt return, which is his lowest since 2019. McCloud is also averaging 22.5 yards per kickoff return, which is pretty average.

But I'm not really sure Ronnie Bell would fare much better. That said, it would be interesting to see him get a shot. And if McCloud puts the ball on the ground again, Bell may get his shot.

Why does Coach Shanahan always seem to go to a conservative game plan after we start beating the other team by a substantial margin? - John C.

I think a lot of coaches start taking fewer chances and become a little more conservative when they have a big lead. I also know that many fans think Shanahan is too conservative with any kind of lead, but if we take a trip back to Super Bowl LIV, we recall that Shanahan was throwing the ball, with a 10-point lead, more than he was running the ball.

There have been a couple of games recently that I felt like they should run the ball more once they built a lead. But Shanahan really trusts Purdy. And it's worked out well so far.

Will Feliciano replace Burford at right guard for the rest of the season? - Shaun N.

I believe the plan is to rotate Jon Feliciano and Spencer Burford as they did with Burford and Daniel Brunskill last season. Burford seems to play better when he's rotating in and out. So if Burford is ready to go on Sunday, I'd expect to see him sharing the load with Feliciano.

When is Ronnie Bell going to get more playing time in the slot? - Darne H.

Wow, is this my third Ronnie Bell question? He's quite the popular guy.

I doubt Bell gets much time in the slot until he learns to block better in the running game. At least that's my theory. As I wrote earlier, the 49ers demand their wide receivers block in the run game. And if they don't, they don't play much.

How would drafting a safety, who's a true center fielder, either improve the D or go against their schematic plan?

I think anytime you can find a safety who can truly be a centerfield type of player, like Earl Thomas was for Seattle, that player can transform your defense. I don't think it would go against their scheme at all. The 49ers would love to find a guy like that.

But those guys aren't easy to find.

Adam Peters. I feel like this isn't talked about enough, with John Lynch's change in title with his extension, where does this put Peters? - Jordan

I hope they're working on a way to keep Peters. I think he's a star and knows his stuff, as evidenced by what the team has done with the late rounds of the draft. Lynch is a great face of the franchise. But Peters is too good to lose.

That's all we have for this week's edition of the 49ers Webzone Mailbag. Check back next week for more.
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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