Keep an eye on these five 49ers on Sunday vs. Dolphins


49ers Insider Matt Maiocco gives you five players to keep an eye on in Sunday's game at Levi's Stadium.

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Jimmy Garoppolo will be returning to the 49ers' lineup on Sunday after missing the last two games with an ankle sprain.

Although the team's top quarterback is back, this game still will not be about Garoppolo.

The 49ers look to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with better, more consistent play from the supporting cast.

The 49ers still are relying on a bunch of their backup players on defense.

Second-year Dolphins coach Brian Flores said his vision was to build a “tough, smart, disciplined” team. Despite his team’s 1-3 record, that looks to be the direction the Dolphins are heading.

Miami views this as a great opportunity to knock off the team that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last season.

In order for the 49ers to avoid another upset loss, here are five players who must step up.


Regardless of the 49ers’ quarterback situation or whether Raheem Mostert will be back in top form, McKinnon clearly has shown through four games that he is a large part of what the 49ers are building on offense.

McKinnon will continue to be a big piece of the 49ers’ offense as a runner and receiver. He leads the 49ers with 193 yards and three touchdowns on just 34 rushing attempts. McKinnon also has 13 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.

As coach Kyle Shanahan spends more time around McKinnon, seeing what he can do, his role in the offense -- and the creativity with which he is used – is likely to expand.


Nick Bosa is out for the season. Dee Ford’s future is in serious doubt due to a back condition.

The 49ers signed Ziggy Ansah, but will place him on season-ending injured reserve after just two games due to a torn biceps.

Armstead is the 49ers' top defensive lineman. He is about the only one still remaining from the unit that led the charge through the NFC last season.

The 49ers dealt DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason, opting to retain Armstead on a lucrative new contract.

And with his new contract that pays him $17 million a season, Armstead must produce. It is not just good enough to be the team’s best defensive lineman.

He will face double-teams and attract a lot of attention, but he still must find a way to impact games and contribute to 49ers' victories.


Just like a week ago against the Eagles' Brandon Graham, McGlinchey will face a difficult challenge against the opposition’s top pass rusher.

Fifth-year player Emmanuel Ogbah has contributed to three sacks this season. He lines up primarily on the left side of the Dolphins defense.

While McGlinchey has been good as a run-blocker, he has struggled at times in pass protection. It is imperative that he turns things around and becomes more consistent in keeping pressure out of the face of his quarterback.

Although McGlinchey has not allowed a sack, according to Pro Football Focus, he has given up 10 pressures and grades out as the team’s lowest-rated offensive linemen in pass protection.


The 49ers believe they have one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. But K’Waun Williams will be out of action for at least three games due to a knee injury.

So the club must turn to Taylor in the all-important role of covering the slot receiver.

Taylor took part in training camp but was cut before the start of the regular season. He remained without a job for the first three weeks of the season before the 49ers signed him to the practice squad, then elevated him to the active roster.

Taylor registered a sack on a nickel blitz on his first snap of the season last week. But the bigger question is whether he will be able to cover anywhere near as well as Williams.

Isaiah Ford is Miami’s top slot receiver. He has 14 receptions for 148 yards, and you can figure that Ryan Fitzpatrick will pay particularly close attention to this matchup and go after Taylor.


Just in case you forgot, Kittle gave everyone a very impressive reminder: He is the best player on the team.

And when teams come up against some difficult circumstances, it is more important than ever for the best players to take charge.

Kittle sets the tone for the 49ers with his attitude and spirit. And he is the team's most important offensive player because of his ability to make huge impacts as a pass-catcher and run-blocker.

Kittle had one of the best games of his career against the Eagles on Sunday night with 15 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown.

However, it did not result in a 49ers victory, and that’s all that matters to Kittle.

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