Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers: Week 1 Q&A With Niner Noise

Jan 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11) is restrained by offensive tackle Rob Havenstein (79) after a play against the San Francisco 49ers in overtime at Levi
Jan 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11) is restrained by offensive tackle Rob Havenstein (79) after a play against the San Francisco 49ers in overtime at Levi /

The Los Angeles Rams will open their 2016 season on the road for a division game against the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s been an interesting last couple of weeks for the Los Angeles Rams as the team prepared for their Week 1 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers–especially at the quarterback position.

Related Story: 5 Factors For Rams vs. 49ers

After trading up to use the No. 1 pick on Jared Goff, many wondered whether the former California star would outperform Case Keenum in the preseason, and earn the starting job at quarterback for the 2016 season. Instead, Goff experienced the type of adjustments most rookies go through in the preseason, and will start the season off as the No. 3 quarterback behind Keenum and Sean Mannion.

As frustrating as this move seems, it was the right one for the Rams as Keenum gives the team their best shot at competing for a playoff spot in the NFC. With an already stellar defense, Los Angeles knows the offense is the main factor holding the team back from reaching the next level, and it will be interesting to see what type of improvements–if at all–there will be Monday night against San Francisco.

In order to get ready for Monday’s game, Ramblin’ Fan sat down with site expert Peter Panacy of the 49ers FanSided site, Niner Noise, to discuss what to expect from these NFC West rivals in the opener. Be sure to also check out Peter’s article with our answers regarding how Los Angeles will make out against San Francisco.


How do 49ers fans feel about Chip Kelly? Do they look at what happened in Philadelphia as a reason for concern over the head coach?

I think most 49ers fans are cautiously excited about what Chip Kelly can bring to the table. Most realize the roster control he had in Philadelphia probably wasn’t the best thing. He won’t have that in San Francisco.

The only thing fans may be concerned about is whether or not Kelly’s offense is something to which the rest of the league caught up. That’s one of the bigger worries and, either way, it will force Kelly to make some of his own adjustments.

Regardless, he’s sure an upgrade over former head coach Jim Tomsula.

What are the expectations for Blaine Gabbert? Was this the right decision at quarterback over Colin Kaepernick? 

Going with Blaine Gabbert over Colin Kaepernick was the right decision. At least for now. Kap could probably benefit from sitting on the sidelines for at least a few weeks, learning Kelly’s offense — he missed all of OTAs and a good chunk of minicamp and training camp due to injury — and trying to fix what shortcomings he has.

At best, Gabbert is an OK quarterback who won’t hurt your own efforts. And he’s mobile too, so at least the 49ers offense has that option. But the expectations are never going to be that high.

Does Carlos Hyde have what it takes to be a top-10 running back? Are the 49ers confident over the running back staying healthy after playing in just seven games last year?

Carlos Hyde could be in the discussion for the league’s leading rusher this year. He dropped a good deal of weight this offseason, and that should help alleviate the injury concerns with his foot.

Three elements back up projecting Hyde as a league-leading candidate. First, Hyde will be running in an inside-zone blocking scheme, which is what he thrived in at Ohio State. Second, the Niners offensive line is revamped. The focus was on bringing in guys (Zane Beadles, Joshua Garnett) who are solid in run support. And lastly, head coach Kelly loves to run the ball. The stats might not mean much, but the Niners led the NFL in preseason rushing yards.

The opportunity should be there.

Which under the radar player should fans keep an eye on for the 49ers in the opener? 

I’m looking at tight end Vance McDonald as a factor. He shouldn’t be under the radar (he was a second-round pick in 2013), but he hasn’t come close to living up to expectations so far.

This year could be different. And with the Niners’ wide receiver corps thin at best, and the expectation Los Angeles will load the box against the run, the 49ers tight ends could be a factortonight for Kelly.

Gabbert has developed a rapport with McDonald over the last year or so, and I figure this connection will be one which makes or breaks San Francisco’s chances.

What are your final predictions for the game between the 49ers and Rams?

The 49ers are riding a five-game Week 1 winning streak, so I’m going with San Francisco to win at home. I’m not sure the Niners will have a better record than Los Angeles when the season’s over. But I do think this will be the contest in which the 49ers really try to prove doubters wrong.

Front-seven defenses will be key to both teams — as well as stopping/establishing the run. Whichever team does that better comes away with the victory.