On Sunday, the 49ers fully believe they should come away with a victory when the Detroit Lions come to Levi’s Stadium.
Here are the top four 49ers to watch against the Lions, 48-17 losers in their season opener against the New York Jets.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
After seven victories in his first seven NFL starts, Garoppolo finally tasted defeat in Week 1 with a 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Garoppolo did not play well, but he also did not get much help from his teammates, either.
So, for the first time in his career, Garoppolo faces adversity. All eyes will be on him to see how he responds after a bad game.
Garoppolo completed just 15 of 33 pass attempts for 261 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions against Minnesota. His passer rating was a career-low 45.1.
Along the way, Dante Pettis and Pierre Garçon did not come down with tough but catchable would-be touchdowns. And George Kittle dropped an over-the-shoulder attempt that could have gone for a huge, game-turning play. Kendrick Bourne ran the wrong route, resulting in a Garoppolo interception for a touchdown. But Garoppolo also didn’t help matters when he overthrew Kittle in the end zone.
It will take a better performance from Garoppolo, and it will also take a better showing from his supporting cast.
DL Solomon Thomas
It is the nature of the business that big things are expected from players who are chosen with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Thomas, a second-year pro from Stanford, is the 49ers’ base starter at defensive end. But he was removed for every pass-rush snap against the Vikings. Arik Armstead took all of those snaps in place of Thomas.
Thomas must start to approach the level of his ability for the 49ers’ defense to take another step forward. DeForest Buckner can’t do everything by himself.
WR Dante Pettis
Speedster Marquise Goodwin is out with a deep thigh contusion, so Pettis will get his first career start after being forced into considerable playing time last week in his NFL debut. Pettis caught two passes for 61 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown reception on a broken play.
There should be some opportunities for Pettis to make plays. Detroit cornerback Darius Slay is one of the best in the business, but there’s not much else in the Lions secondary.
LB Elijah Lee
After Reuben Foster, Malcolm Smith and Brock Coyle, here comes Lee. The second-year player from Kansas State is ready for his first NFL start as the 49ers’ depth at linebacker will be tested.
Lee is scheduled to start alongside rookie Fred Warner, who had an impressive opening week. Lee entered late in the game and recorded three tackles while playing just 10 snaps in place of Coyle, who sustained a concussion and a broken bone high in his back.
Lee is a rangy player who has gotten more comfortable taking on blocks. But his strength is similar to Warner’s. Both have the speed and agility to make plays sideline to sideline.