How Giants QB Jones presents 49ers’ defense with new challenge

How Giants QB Jones presents 49ers’ defense with new challenge originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The 49ers’ defense will be put to the test against the New York Giants on “Thursday Night Football” at Levi’s Stadium.

After San Francisco’s defense struggled against Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throughout the first half of Sunday’s 30-23 win at SoFi Stadium, the 49ers’ defensive line will look to contain Giants quarterback Daniel Jones.

In speaking to reporters after practice on Tuesday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was asked what challenge Jones presents an opposing defense under center.

“Huge challenge. It starts with his legs,” Shanahan said. “Anytime you have that speed and you can run the ball like he does. They’re willing to run him. He’s willing to run. He’s physical when he runs. He’s got the skill set to run away from people. So anytime you have a quarterback like that, the challenge that does just schematically, unlocking your defense and making you have to play a certain way is always a pain.

“And then he’s got the ability to play in the pocket and beat you that way too. So he’s getting better each year. We’ve all really loved him coming out and I think one of the main reasons he took them to the playoffs last year. He played really unbelievable there in that second half on Sunday.”

Defensive end Nick Bosa and the 49ers’ defense sacked Stafford, who is known to get the ball out quickly, just once on Sunday. Jones will present a hungry 49ers D-line with a different challenge.

“It’s pretty much going to be the opposite of what we just did with [Matthew] Stafford,” Bosa explained. “Definitely could hold it a little bit. We just have to keep him in the pocket, he’s going to try and get out any chance he gets, so just trying to close it in on him and be good in our rush lanes and we could have a good day.”

Jones’ 708 rushing yards in 2022 were the fifth most among quarterbacks behind Chicago’s Justin Fields (1,143), Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (764), Buffalo’s Josh Allen (762) and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts (760). Jones also has the second-highest scramble percentage among NFL quarterbacks behind only Jackson (h/t The Athletic’s David Lombardi).

With a quick turnaround before Thursday night’s game, 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is quickly working to prepare his defense for Jones’ athleticism in and outside the pocket.

“He’s very challenging, extremely athletic, does a great job with that format and that offense,” Wilks said. “They love to run the zone-read as you mentioned. That’s part of [New York Giants head coach Brian] Daboll’s offense. He did the same thing in Buffalo with [Bills QB Josh] Allen. So, it’s definitely something that we’re going to see. It’s definitely something that we put on tape during preseason, so we’ve definitely got to be prepared for it.”

The Giants likely will be without star running back Saquon Barkley. He suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and reportedly is expected to miss multiple weeks, although Daboll mentioned Tuesday that Barkley will be a game-time decision.

If Jones is without his best offensive weapon, the 49ers’ defense could be in store for a big game against a shaky Giants offense.

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