There’s still a lot of drama surrounding the 2-3 Dallas Cowboys even after a bye week.
Ezekiel Elliott is still caught up in extended legal moves on his six-game suspension. On Tuesday, a judge in New York granted a temporary restraining order, clearing Elliott to play Sunday.
The national anthem debate, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ recent strong stand, will come full circle when the Cowboys play in San Francisco Sunday. It was a little more than a year ago that Colin Kapernick’s protest over racial inequality began by sitting during the anthem.
Then there’s the matter of a football game against the winless Niners (0-6).
Here are five storylines to watch:
Record is deceiving?
The 49ers are one of two winless teams in the NFL (Cleveland is the other). But they’ve been more competitive than the record might suggest – they have lost their past five games by a total of 13 points, including two games that went to overtime. That gives San Francisco the dubious distinction of being the only team of the Super Bowl era to lose five consecutive games by three points or less. Not to mention four of those five games were on the road. The 49ers are a rebuilding team, but not void of talent.
To go with the rebuilding theme, it’s no surprise the 49ers are turning to rookie C.J. Beathard as the starting quarterback going into Week 7. Beathard threw his first NFL passes in the second quarter Sunday against the Washington Redskins, completing 19 of 36 passes for 245 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 26-24 loss. The third-round pick out of Iowa showed enough to win the starting job over veteran Brian Hoyer. “By no means were things perfect, but the game is not too big for the guy,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He comes in and doesn’t hesitate. He’s extremely tough. [He] came in there and gave us a little bit of a spark.”
Speaking of firsts, Shanahan is still searching for his first win as a coach. Shanahan is viewed as a rising star in the coaching industry after spending the past nine seasons as an offensive coordinator and given his pedigree following in the footsteps of his father, longtime Denver Broncos and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. Mike won his NFL coaching debut with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1988, so Kyle has gotten off to a slower start than his father. But, as stated, the 49ers have been more competitive than their record suggests.
Running back Carlos Hyde is not on the trading block, Shanahan said Sunday. Instead, he’ll remain one of the focal points of the 49ers offense. Hyde ranks 10th in the league with 360 rushing yards on 86 carries and is tied for third with four touchdowns on the ground. Hyde is on pace for just under 1,000 yards, and the 49ers have struggled to get the running game established in recent weeks. Hyde had 28 yards on 13 carries on Sunday against the Redskins, and 11 yards on eight carries the previous week against Indianapolis.
One of the more recognizable names on the 49ers is no longer with the team – linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 49ers parted ways with Bowman on Friday, and he signed with nearby Oakland. That decision should clear a spot for first-round pick Reuben Foster, who could return from a high ankle sprain this week. Foster was the 49ers’ second first-round selection (31st overall) in this year’s draft. They used the third overall pick on defensive end Solomon Thomas, who has two sacks so far this season.