The San Francisco 49ers were hit hard by the injury bug during the 2020 season. The team limped, figuratively and literally, to a 6-10 record and last-place finish in the NFC West. Only five players, LG Laken Tomlinson, RG Daniel Brunskill, RT Mike McGlinchey, LDE Arik Armstead, and MLB Fred Warner started all 16 games during the 2020 season.
The 49ers are a lot better than their record would indicate. They are only one season removed from making a run to the Super Bowl. With their quarterback of the future in Trey Lance now in place, getting some better luck when it comes to injuries would help get the team back on track.
A large portion of the core that helped get the team to the Super Bowl in 2020 is still intact, so they could very easily be a contender again this upcoming season and for years to come.
For them to get back into contender status, they will need a few players to step up and get back to their dominant ways. Here are two players that are x-factors for the 49ers in the 2021 NFL season.
2. Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver
The 49ers used the No. 25 overall pick on Brandon Aiyuk coming out of Arizona State in the 2020 NFL Draft. He started 11 out of the 12 games that he appeared in and showed flashes of being a No. 1 receiver for this team.
Aiyuk caught 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns. He added six rushes for 77 yards and two more scores. Those are very strong numbers when you consider he was a rookie with an adjusted offseason because of the pandemic. Also, the 49ers quarterback play left a lot to be desired, so that makes his performance all the more impressive.
That is also what makes him an x-factor this season. Can he stay on the field for every game and push toward the 1,000 receiving-yard mark? Having another option in the passing game that defenses have to worry about will help open things up for George Kittle at tight end as well.
1. Nick Bosa, Defensive End
One of the biggest hits the 49ers took last season on the injury front was budding star defensive end, Nick Bosa. Bosa tore his ACL in the second game of the season against the New York Jets. The injury has been described as more than a simple ACL repair, which is a cause for concern for Bosa and the 49ers.
The sky looked to be the limit for Bosa after a strong rookie season. He totaled nine sacks and 25 quarterback hits. He added one interception, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 16 tackles for loss as well, earning a Pro Bowl nod and the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Hopefully, he can put the knee injury behind him and get back to terrorizing quarterbacks on weekends. While the 49ers still have a strong defense, they did lose the mastermind behind it n Robert Saleh, who took over as head coach of the Jets.
Getting Bosa back in the lineup and healthy would make the transition a lot easier for new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.