Thursday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks didn’t just herald the latter as one of the best teams – if not the best – in the NFC, it also provided some insight as to attack both teams for the 49ers’ second matchups with each.
With Arizona, there is a chance that the heavy-run scheme may not work again for a team defense still ranked 6th overall in rushing yards allowed (97.0 yds/gm). Seattle managed to keep the pressure on Arizona through the air, attacking the secondary on 29 pass attempts. The 49ers will need to utilize WRs Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree – both expected to be healthy and kicking by Week 17 – if they want to continue their success with Arizona.
As for Seattle, the advantage for San Francisco may come with two things: exploiting a depleted offensive line that allowed two fumbles and three sacks to Arizona’s D; and a home crowd for the 49ers that will only make things hostile on the Seahawks. Despite shattering their image as a team that struggled on the road (having gone 6-2 in their last 8 road games), the road crowd still played a role in Arizona climbing back into a 14-0 game early in the first half.
Depth is a concern for the 49ers at this point in the season, and with games at Tennessee and against Jacksonville in London looming, the bye week couldn’t come fast enough.
One main concern – besides at wide receiver, that is – is at the defensive line. With Ray McDonald diagnosed with a partially torn biceps tendon, he could be one bad play away from deactivation. Meanwhile, Glenn Dorsey is still recovering from a hamstring injury, and is currently listed as questionable for Sunday.
While Tony Jerod-Eddie has been commendable so far, they may need to seek the services of two rookies – undrafted Alabama talent Quinton Dial, and undrafted Wyoming tackle Mike Purcell. If it is necessary to throw one – or both – into the fire, it may be best to do so against an explosive running game (but struggling passing game) in Tennessee.
At this point, however, it is mere speculation as to how much they will be used in the coming weeks, especially if the injuries to Dorsey and McDonald are quick to heal.
Speaking of the defense, I think it’s safe to say that there has been one standout that has been making waves on the defense, whose name is not Patrick Willis.
Or Navorro Bowman.
Or Glenn Dorsey. Or Justin Smith.
It’s rookie safety Eric Reid: the first-year standout out of LSU wasn’t necessary heralded outside of early draft boards in this year’s NFL Draft, but the 49ers traded up to take him, as a potential replacement to departed free agent safety Dashon Goldson. Since his first defensive snaps for the 49ers, Reid has made a huge presence, being involved in a number of big defensive plays, and it seems that he is only going to get better.
So much so, that, six weeks into their 2013 campaign, there is a buzz that Reid has a good shot at winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.
At this point in the regular season, he already has a fumble recovered, and three interceptions – half of his career total at LSU. By comparison, the man he replaced – Goldson – has 0 INTs and 0 fumbles recovered through 6 games. If he continues his level of play, Reid will wipe the memories of Goldson from the minds of 49ers fans.
Meanwhile, in the background of the 49ers practice facilities, a potential beast at running back is currently being groomed, and may be able to see action with the team this year – on the practice field, at least.
Former South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore – taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft – is still rehabbing his torn ACL, as he continues the slow-paced program that Coach Jim Harbaugh wanted him on since he drafted Lattimore.
As he continues to improve, the rookie running back may be on track to be taken off the Non-Football Injury List by Week 11, which would make him eligible to join the practice squad.
This should be encouraging news both for Lattimore and for a 49ers fanbase that could view Lattimore’s recovery strategy as treating the talented runner with “kid gloves”. While he will still most likely not see the playing field until next season, it could most certainly help Lattimore’s mental state and confidence if this course of action comes to pass.
With Sunday’s game at Tennessee on the horizon, the prospect of facing the Titans is, apparently, a somewhat sore subject for QB Colin Kaepernick.
Taken 36th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Kaepernick was the sixth signal-caller taken that year, behind such prospects as Cam Newton (Carolina), Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville), Christian Ponder (Minnesota) and Andy Dalton (Cincinnati). One of them, Tennessee’s Jake Locker, was taken eighth overall.
Despite his unheralded college career at Nevada, Kaepernick insists that the Titans organization expressed a great interest in drafting him. Head coach Mike Munchak confirmed the interest in Kaepernick, but gave no reason as to why the Titans did not select him.
While it is too early to judge the 2011 draft in the same way we judge the 2000 Draft – one in which Tom Brady was the seventh quarterback selected, at No. 199 – it is interesting to speculate what would have happened had the Titans stuck their neck out to draft Kaepernick, either at the eighth overall spot, or later in the first round, as trading down could have been an option.