With the Buffalo Bills hosting the San Francisco 49ers at New Era Field this Sunday, we got some inside info from David Fucillo, the editor-in-chief of Niners Nation.
1.) #ElephantInTheRoom to start -- what are your expectations for Colin Kaepernick in this one?
Niners Nation: I'm keeping my expectations fairly low. He hasn't played meaningful snaps in a year, and struggled last season, although that was due in part to injury. I think we’ll see him get some opportunities to run with the ball in the zone read, and he potentially even gets some straight QB keepers. From a passing perspective, it's a little more difficult to predict. He's got a stronger arm than Blaine Gabbert, but his accuracy has been a problem the last couple years. He seems better suited for an offense with more pre-defined reads, and fairly simplified passing options. If Kelly does that, it would boost his accuracy. And at least we know he probably won't underthrow Torrey Smith on a deep ball!
2.) Carlos Hyde is one of the more talented young RBs in the NFL. How has he played this season?
NN: It's been a solid year for Hyde. It's been rough in terms of dealing with poor offensive line play in the run game, but he's still managed to be produce. His 4.0 yards per carry average isn't spectacular, but I don't think it tells the whole story. He's on pace for over 1,400 total yards, including 1,200 rushing yards. He is also on pace for the franchise single season record in rushing touchdowns. He's been the only consistent thing about this offense.
I think he could benefit from the QB switch as much as anybody. Blaine Gabbert is athletic enough to be dangerous running the ball, but Colin Kaepernick is a more dangerous threat on the ground. Defenders might be inclined to be more hesitant on the zone read because of Kaepernick's legs, and that could open up some more holes for Hyde.
3.) Two of San Francisco's last three first-round picks have been large, versatile defensive linemen from Oregon. Have Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner lived up to the billing thus far?
NN: It has been a bit of hit and miss. Armstead was one of the team's best pass rushers last season, and while he has not had a lot of sacks, he is getting to the quarterback. This year, he is dealing with a shoulder injury that will probably require surgery after the season. He will continue playing through it, but there is some concern that the injury is slowing him down.
Buckner is the more well-rounded defensive tackle, but he is still learning the NFL game in this his first season. He has his strong plays, but again, there is inconsistency. They will continue to get a lot of playing time, but it's going to be hit or miss at times. I think there remains plenty of upside for them, but obviously people want to see things now, now, now.
4.) Jeremy Kerley has been the defacto No. 1 receiver for the 49ers. Is there any other pass-catching option Buffalo should be aware of / concerned about?
NN: Torrey Smith will be someone to watch with Colin Kaepernick on the field. Kaepernick has his own accuracy issues, but he could very well provide a better option on the deep ball. His deep ball accuracy hasn't been great, but he's got the arm to get it out there to Smith, who has the speed to "go get it." The 49ers have their tight ends and other receivers, but there is nothing about them that screams, "look at me!" Kap will throw their way, but Smith is the guy to watch at this point.
5.) We're only five games in, but what is the overall fan / local media perception of Chip Kelly?
NN: People like him. Even though the team is struggling, blame is placed more on general manager Trent Baalke because of the state of the roster. People are going to complain about coaching decisions on game day, but I think most people recognize the roster issues in play.
But in terms of his personality and the criticisms in Philadelphia, it does not seem to be a big problem. His press conferences seem to go fairly well, with banter that indicates a good rapport. He's been fairly open about some of his decisions, which helps as well. His handling of the Colin Kaepernick protest has been a big positive for him. He has offered support, and not wavered in that, which I think has gone over well in the locker room. All in all, things are going well for him in terms of fan/media support.