Earlier this week I identified Malik Hooker as the most important newcomer to the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. Each SB Nation NFL blog did the same and so we reached out to David Fucillo of Niners Nation to learn more about which newcomer has had the biggest impact in San Francisco, and which under the radar player could be key to the outcome of Sunday’s game.
BM: We have focused this week on identifying the most important newcomer to each NFL team. Would you share who that is for you and also who is the most under the radar impact player who could change the outcome of the game?
DF: I went with Trent Taylor, but given the huge roster turnover this year for the 49ers, it's a lengthy list. Taylor was a fifth-round pick in April. He's a smaller white receiver, so the Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola comparisons fly fast and furious. There is a better than 50 percent chance Chris Spielman or Thom Brennaman makes that comparison on Sunday.
Taylor is currently fourth in the NFL in punt return average, and is tied for third on the team in targets. He's not a deep threat, but rather a guy who will chew things up underneath and get plenty of yards after the catch. He has yet to return a punt for a touchdown, but I feel like it could happen at any minute.
He also would qualify as the team's under-the-radar player, but to mix that up, let's also talk about veteran Elvis Dumervil. The 49ers signed him in June to be a pass rush specialist, and he has been that. He got career sacks 100 and 101 this past week and is among the NFL's leaders in PFF's pass rush productivity stat. He doesn't play a ton of snaps because the 49ers have struggled to set up 3rd and long situations, but if they get the Colts in that situation, watch out for him. He's not an every down player anymore, but he still is incredibly efficient in getting to the quarterback.
I look for both of the players Fucillo mentions to impact the game. Our passing defense’s biggest weakness is on underneath patterns and crossing routes. We like to play off-man coverage that allows these easy passes and hopes to stop receivers from getting additional yards after the catch.
As for Dumervil, it has been awhile since he was a household name in the NFL but there is little doubt that pressuring Jacoby Brissett will be a priority for the 49ers and that our offensive line has showed that it is likely to give up some pressure. Just how much the Colts allow Dumervil to impact the game could be a pretty big key to the outcome.