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Giants vs. 49ers: 5 Players to watch in Week 3


The Giants will look for their first win of the season on Sunday when they welcome the San Francisco 49ers to MetLife Stadium for a Week 3 showdown.

Both teams were struck by the injury bug last week, as several key contributors from both sides were lost for the season. But as Joe Judge and the rest of the Giants have said all week, the show must go on.

Here are five players to keep an eye on during Sunday's matchup:

QB Daniel Jones

With Saquon Barkley lost for the season, the Giants will need other players on the offense to step up and help carry the load. While this is not a one-man job, the Giants will need their second-year quarterback to help shoulder the burden.

Jones has looked solid through the first two weeks of the season. He has completed 63.0 percent of his passes for 520 yards and two touchdowns while adding seven rush attempts for 43 yards. Jones has earned a 78.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, good for the 10th-highest mark among quarterbacks. The young signal-caller has been able to put together some impressive drives against two of the leagues toughest defenses, leading a 19-play, nearly 9-minute drive against the Steelers and a 95-yard drive against the Bears.

Things won't get much easier for Jones this week. The 49ers rank fourth in the league in passing yards allowed (397 yards) and third in passing touchdowns allowed (three). Even with injuries ravaging the unit, San Francisco's defense is still a very talented bunch.

"We have a lot of guys who can make plays," Jones said of trying to replace Saquon's production. "It's about everyone doing what they have to do to execute as an offense. That's the way we are going to be most effective. It's not any one guy, it's not a couple guys. It's all of us executing to put the ball into position to score points to make those explosive plays and keep drives going. It's not one guy or two guys, it's the group stepping up and I'm confident we'll be able to do that.

TE Evan Engram

Saquon wasn't the only offensive playmaker to go down, as wide receiver Sterling Shepard was also placed on injured reserve this week with turf toe. The Giants will benefit from Golden Tate in his second game back after missing the season opener, but the injury to Shepard could open the door for more targets in Evan Engram's direction. 

After a rough first six quarters of the season, Engram started to get going in the second half against the Bears. The fourth-year tight end reeled in six passes for 65 yards in the final two quarters, making key catches on each of the team's final three drives. The Giants will need more of that this week against a defense that's found great success slowing down opposing tight ends.

The 49ers limited Arizona's Dan Arnold to two catches for 21 yards in Week 1, while only allowing one reception for five yards to the Jets' Chris Herndon last week. Engram's speed and athleticism allow him to line up in the slot more than most tight ends, which could provide some problems to San Francisco's defense.

"He's playing hard. He had some opportunities as that game wore on and he took advantage of them," Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett said about Engram's performance against Chicago. "He won some one on one matchups, he made some runs after the catch that were impressive for us. Big, explosive plays like we're talking about. He's certainly going to be a big part of our offense going forward. Just love his approach, love everything about it. He'll get better and better and better the more he plays."

DL Dexter Lawrence

Dexter Lawrence is off to a great start this season. The athletic defensive lineman has totaled nine tackles (eight solo), a sack, three tackles for losses and two quarterback hits through the first two weeks, and has consistently been getting pressure behind the line of scrimmage.

Lawrence enters Week 3 with an 85.7 overall grade from PFF, which ranks fifth among all interior defensive linemen. He was able to apply pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and Mitchell Trubisky, but has really shined in the run game, earning an 80.7 grade from the analytics site.

The 49ers have gotten solid play from their offensive linemen in the first two weeks of the season, as Trent Williams, Laken Tomlinson and Ben Garland have graded well for PFF.

LB Blake Martinez

The Giants' defense has played well to start the season, and a big reason for that has been the performance of Blake Martinez. The inside linebacker has racked up 21 total tackles (14 solo) through two games, only five shy of the league lead, to go with a sack, two tackles for losses and one quarterback hit.

Martinez is seemingly all over the field on each and every play, and the analytics back it up. According to PFF, the 26-year-old has earned an 87.4 overall grade in the first two games, ranking in the Top 3 at his position. His 12 run stops is tops in the NFL, and have helped him receive an elite 92.0 run defense grade from the analytics site.

The 49ers make it no secret that they love running the football. Their four running backs combined for 27 rush attempts last week, amassing 184 yards and two touchdowns. With Nick Mullens under center due to Jimmy Garoppolo's ankle injury, San Francisco may continue to lean heavily on the run game.

"Blake's trying to get better every day and he loves to be coached," Assistant Head Coach/ Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham said Thursday. "I think Blake is playing at a good level in terms of getting to the ball, controlling the defense, manipulating the front, he's being physical at the line of scrimmage...

"The beauty about Blake is he usually knows when it's not good enough so he works hard to get better. If it is good enough, he thinks he can do it even better. I couldn't ask for more as a coach."

CB James Bradberry

Cornerback James Bradberry has been a star in the Giants' secondary, helping shut down the opponents' top receivers while also displaying his big-play capabilities. Bradberry came down with an acrobatic interception against the Bears last week, but that was only the tip of the iceberg of his strong outing.

The 27-year-old limited Allen Robinson to a mere one reception for 14 yards on six targets, effectively shutting down Chicago's top receiver. This led to him earning an outstanding 93.1 coverage grade from PFF in Week 2. Through two weeks, the analytics site has given Bradberry an 86.0 overall grade, which has him ranked second among the league's cornerbacks. The veteran is picking up right where he left off in Carolina, which has provided the Giants' secondary with a significant boost.

While the 49ers may be a run-first team, the Giants cannot sleep on Nick Mullens. The third-year quarterback started against the Giants as a rookie in 2018 and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. In fact, Mullens went on to throw for at least 275 yards in four of his last five games that season.

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.


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