After trading for former Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders early in the week, the San Francisco 49ers are looking for a big game from the 10-year veteran as they make a run for the playoffs.
San Francisco, 6-0, decided to address their 25th ranked pass offense — only averaging 214.5 yards per game — by trading for Sanders with the hopes that he will be a consistent receiving option for franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Sanders, 32, is now on his third team in 10 seasons, with 565 career catches for 7,391 yards and 39 touchdowns.
In his seven games with the Broncos, Sanders had 30 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns.
Sanders’ first game with the Niners will be a touch matchup, as the offense will go against a stingy Carolina Panthers defense, only allowing 225 yards per game — eighth best in the league. With both defenses having top 10 passing attacks it should be a low-scoring game down in Santa Clara.
It will be crucial to see how head coach Kyle Shanahan will incorporate Sanders into the offense on a short week. But this week’s game should be a stepping stone in the chemistry that will be built between Sanders and Garoppolo.
Sanders brings a big boost to the 49ers’ passing game as the team hasn’t had a receiver of his caliber in the Shanahan-John Lynch era.
Tight end George Kittle is currently the teams leading receiver with 376 yards and one touchdown. But among receivers, Marquise Goodwin leads the pack with a mere 181 yards on the season. No receiver has more than one touchdown for the 49ers.
While Sanders isn’t a receiver like Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins, he allows for the 49ers offense to take more risks in the passing game and give the running game a break. His presence on the field alone should allow for players like Kittle, Goodwin, Dante Pettis, and Deebo Samuel to have more opportunities.
Coming up, the 49ers face a tough schedule, including the Seattle Seahawks twice, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens. It is one of the hardest remaining schedules in the league, so the 49ers will need their passing game to generate big plays and open the field for the teams second best rushing offense.
While this week might not be the coming out party for Sanders, he will have many opportunities to make plays throughout the latter half of the season. San Francisco will need Sanders if they want to continue their undefeated streak.