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Week 7 preview: Searching for 6-0 start, 49ers must not overlook beatable Washington

Last Sunday, the 49ers handled the division-rival Rams with ease in front of a hometown crowd in Los Angeles.

San Francisco now, for the most part, owns the respect a 5-0 team should, and barring a letdown 6-0 should be just around the corner. The only way the 49ers drop a Week 7 showdown with Washington is if they overlook the 1-5 opponent.

Kyle Shanahan’s Revenge Game

His time with Washington was bitter-sweet, with an emphasis on bitter. Kyle Shanahan returns to FedEx Field for the second time since his departure from D.C. He lost the first by two points.

Scot Tucker/SFBay San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks at the play sheet during the second half as the Pittsburgh Steelers face the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, September 22, 2019. (Scot Tucker /

This season, Shanahan and his crew are atop the NFC standings and are looking to beat up on the bottom-feeding Redskins. Shanahan said of a Washington team fresh off a 17-16 victory over the Dolphins:

“They’re capable of beating anyone. I know they just won their first game, but they have some good players in there. I know they have some good coaches. They’ve got a very tough D-Line; they’ve got some corners; they’ve got a good safety; they have some good O-Linemen. Everyone knows what Adrian Peterson can do.”

Shanahan went on to refer to a Week 5 matchup with the Patriots, the NFL’s only other undefeated team, in which Washington was withing two points of New England late in the first half before a field goal made it 12-7. Though Washington eventually lost 33-7, Shanahan said the first half shows how competitive Washington is capable of being:

“It doesn’t matter what your record is, that ball bounces the wrong way, you don’t come in ready to play your best game, they will humble you and beat anyone in this league.”

Shanahan was asked in the same press conference about his time with the Redskins. He said he enjoyed working with his dad but was brutally honest beyond that:

It’s clear that Shanahan does not have a lot of fond memories from his time with Washington. With the way the 49ers are playing, and the fear their defense strikes into opposing quarterbacks, this could be a blood-bath, and Shanahan is ready for it.

The 49ers offense has yet to rely heavily on the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo, given the success of the run game. A run-first game script may be in place for Sunday’s matchup as well. As a team, Washington has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards (804) on the season.

Washington defense has some name-recognition

The group as a whole has not performed well this season, but that doesn’t mean it cannot pose a threat. In the defensive backfield, Washington has one of the league’s best cornerbacks in Quinton Dunbar, opposite of him is Josh Norman.

With Dunbar’s excellent start to the season, his counterpart Norman has been a shell of his former All-Pro self. Norman has not practiced this week, as he battles both thigh and hand injuries. Whether Norman plays or not, the 49ers should target that side of the field, avoiding Dunbar as much as they can.

The rest of the defensive unit features some recognizable names. The defensive line features Jonathan Allen and rookie first-rounder Montez Sweat. Jon Bostic and Ryan Kerrigan round out the linebacker core, with Dunbar, Norman, and three-time Pro Bowler Landon Collins in the secondary.

Offensive weapons, featuring two ageless wonders

San Diego Chargers vs
Scot Tucker/SFBay San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) leaps over San Diego Chargers defensive back Darrell Stuckey (25) on a play that was called back because of multiple penalties in the second quarter as the San Diego Chargers face the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, December 20, 2014.

On the offensive side of the ball, Washington has some intriguing play-makers. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin has been a breakout star.

Coming into Sunday’s matchup, the rookie has 23 receptions for 408 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Washington’s number one receiver will certainly be a focus of the 49ers secondary.

At running back, former MVP Adrian Peterson, as well as pass-catching running back Chris Thompson make up a dangerous duo. The 34-year old Peterson is one of the best running backs in NFL history and is still producing. Just last week against the Miami Dolphins, he rushed for 118 yards on 23 carries.

At the tight-end position is another ageless wonder, a former 49er. Vernon Davis has spent the past three seasons with Washington and may play against his former team on Sunday.

49ers Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh said of Davis:

“He still looks like he’s got all that speed. He had that really cool play in the opening game of the season where he looked like Vernon of old. I still remember a couple years ago he got us for a big one when we were in man coverage. He still looks really good. I know he hasn’t played in a couple weeks, but what he’s been on tape, he still looks fantastic to be honest with you.”


It remains unclear who Washington will start at quarterback on Sunday. Case Keenum is the team’s number one quarterback but is battling both shoulder and foot injuries. He practiced Thursday, and will likely face the 49ers on Sunday. If he doesn’t, rookie Dwayne Haskins will get the nod.

Robert Saleh said, of preparing for both quarterbacks:

“Our scheme is set up to take on anything that a team gives us. We’ve just got to be ready to make an in-game adjustment if it so happens, but we go off of what we see on tape based on what we think will happen to us, based on what has shown to happen to us and from there we’ll go play. Teams usually reveal themselves within the first 15 plays of the game and after those first 15 we can get a handle of what it is and we can go play even faster.

“For us, we’re going to do what we do. Not to sound arrogant, obviously there are always game plan specific stuff that we do to change things up, but it’s not chasing ghosts with regards to who’s playing quarterback or not. We’re just going to stay focused on the task at hand and whatever they give us we’ll go play and make the adjustments that we need to.”

Offensive lineman Trent Williams has been subject to a lot of trade chatter since deciding to hold-out. Already without Williams, Washington could be without guard Wes Martin. The 49er pass rush should be chomping at the bit considering a matchup with the shorthanded offensive line. … Last week, George Kittle was questionable to play against the Rams, battling a groin injury. Racking up over 100 receiving yards, Kittle looked just fine. This week is no different, Kittle is expected to be on the field once again.

After the 49ers beat up on the Rams Sunday, Los Angeles went out and got Jalen Ramsey. Adding one of, if not the best cornerback in the NFL. The Rams move to get Ramsey cost them a lot in draft capital — two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder. Richard Sherman had some thoughts.

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