The Oakland Raiders might be 1-6, but the San Francisco 49ers are 1-7, and lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending knee injury earlier this year – regardless of who the opponent is, you never wish an injury on any player. With Jimmy Garoppollo down, the Niners called upon backup signal-caller C.J. Beathard, who for a portion of 2017 held the reins for the team, and totaled a record of 1-4 during his five starts. Since taking over for "Jimmy G" in 2018, however, Beathard and the Niners are 0-5, but the team has been close to victory on a couple of occasions. For the Week 9 clash between the Raiders and the Niners, though, it appears as if San Francisco could be without both Garoppolo and Beathard.
Niners Head Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters earlier this week Beathard is dealing with a wrist ailment, and is struggling to grip or hold a football. Now, I'm no expert, but this seems like a pretty big red flag. According to the team's final injury report, Beathard is listed as questionable, and a possible game day activation, but if he's struggling to grip the ball I can't imagine he'll get the start.
If Beathard can't go, it's assumed that third-string quarterback Nick Mullens will get the nod, and his first career start to boot. The second-year pro went to Southern Mississippi, where he partnered with Raiders running back Jalen Richard for three years. Wednesday, Richard spoke with reporters about his former college teammate potentially starting, and what he expects from Mullens.
"He's going to get the ball in the right spot, smart player, he's going to come out ready to play," he said when asked about Mullens' playmaking abilities. "I'm anxious to see him play and get his opportunity."
See photos from the Raiders' final walk through before their Week 9 Thursday Night Football matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
Richard elaborated more on Mullens' mental understanding of the game, "Just his IQ, you know what I mean? He's got a strong enough arm, an accurate enough arm – not going to wow you – but his football IQ, quarterback IQ to read a defense, know the plays called, his routes, and where to go with the ball he's always been good at there."
Mullens best season at Southern Miss came in 2015 when he completed 63.5 percent of his passes, and totaled 4,476 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The 23-year-old saw ample playing time this preseason, checking in all four games. He accounted for 396 passing yards, 20 rushing yards, one passing touchdown, two rushing touchdowns, and three interceptions. Headed into the primetime matchup, Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden is doing his due diligence on Mullens.
"Well, I'll get a hold of Brett Favre and learn a little bit more," Gruden joked. "Jalen Richard has helped us a little bit. He was a good player in the preseason – athletic guy. You never underestimate anybody in this league. He did some really good things as a quarterback in the preseason. We have a lot of respect for whoever is under center."
Respect everyone, fear no one. Tomorrow's game against the Niners might feature Beathard, or Mullens under center, but either way the battle between the Raiders and the 49ers never disappoints.
Hopefully we'll see you at Levi's Stadium, Raider Nation.