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Dallas Cowboys 2023 opponent preview: 2 49ers to keep an eye on

Today we check out the Cowboys’ Week 5 opponent, the San Francisco 49ers.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

49ers File

2022 Record: 13-4

Last Meeting: 19-12 49ers win in 2022 NFC Divisional Round (Series tied 19-19-1)

Head Coach: Kyle Shanahan (56-46 as a Head Coach)

Key Additions: DI Javon Hargrave, QB Sam Darnold, S Ji’Ayir Brown (Draft)

Key Departures: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, DL Charles Omenihu, OL Mike McGlinchey

2022 Overview

The San Francisco 49ers were, and continue to be, one of the league’s very best teams. The 49ers defeated the Cowboys in the NFC Divisional round to advance to the NFC Championship versus the Philadelphia Eagles, but saw their season end there after a slew of unfortunate injuries to quarterbacks that limited their ability to do anything on offense.

Fast forward to the present day and the 49ers are arguably the NFL’s best team. They are undefeated, and after the first month of the season they look like they are every bit as good as last year, if not better.

This Week 5 matchup is important, and the Cowboys know that given the talk coming out of Dallas this week. They know this a measuring stick game with the ability to prove to the world, and maybe themselves, that they belong in the same tier as the team that has ended their season the last two years.

Player to watch… WR Brandon Aiyuk

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Aiyuk presents an intriguing matchup for this Cowboys secondary. His speed and route-running ability can be game-breaking and with the way Shanahan calls their offense, there is a good chance that they use the receiver in ways that attack the Cowboys' weaknesses.

Shallow to intermediate crossers off of play-action, using his speed to run away from cornerbacks with natural picks schemed in, gives the spacing needed for Brock Purdy to hit Aiyuk in stride for a chunk play. This is something Aiyuk thrives at and the Cowboys will need to be prepared for.

The speed and ability alone make Aiyuk a real threat, but adding in the fact this 49ers offense is well coached, is excellent at scheming week to week, and has a plethora of talent around him, makes this a daunting task for Stephon Gilmore and company.

Don’t forget about... LB Fred Warner

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The 49ers have so much talent on offense and defense that Fred Warner may be the sixth or seventh name you would bring up if you were listing their stars. However, the Cowboys cannot afford to forget about the linebacker on Sunday as he will have a massive impact on the outcome of this matchup. The Cowboys will look to remain balanced in their attack with the hopes of running effectively allowing for the passing game to open, and to do so they're going to need to get a “hat on a hat” with Warner at the second level.

You need to be able to double-team defensive linemen effectively and then get to the linebackers where you can body up Warner and limit his ability to wreak havoc in the running game. Warner is fast, instinctual, and an intelligent linebacker who has seen it all, and if the Cowboys' offensive line is not on point, he could snuff out the Cowboys' offense on the ground.

The running game isn’t the only place Warner’s impact will be felt, he is also a menace in pass defense as well. We saw him run stride for stride with CeeDee Lamb in the divisional round last year and is unafraid to match up and cover tight ends down the field. All this needs to be sorted out while slowing down the pass rush and winning on the interior to create rushing lanes.

The Cowboys have their hands full with the 49ers on Sunday, and while it is absolutely possible they go out there and win this game, it is going to take a complete effort in all phases to do so.

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