While the San Francisco 49ers (1-2) lost to the Arizona Cardinals (3-0), there were some positive from that game. Before the game, many Forever Faithful were questioning why OC Greg Roman has not used more three and four wide-receiver sets. Not anymore. Roman used those sets early and often while going no-huddle style and with a good degree of success. One player who benefited the most was seven-year veteran WR Stevie Johnson.
Considered a breakout game, as Johnson was the team’s leading receiver while catching all nine of his targets for 103 yards, Johnson proved his worth as a viable No. 2 option. And it will be those intermediate routes where Johnson will shine this week, as he continues to find soft spots in zone coverage. The Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) have two players the 49ers are vastly familiar with in CB Cary Williams and CB Bradley Fletcher.
Williams was shredded by 49ers WR Michael Crabtree in Super Bowl XLVII, while Fletcher played for the St. Louis Rams two years ago. Two players that can’t contain Crabtree or WR Anquan Boldin one-on-one, it will be Johnson who should benefit as the Eagles nickel corner CB Brandon Boykin will be exploited at will.
The amount of three wide-out sets, OC Greg Roman will use remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, if the 49ers can come out like they did in the first-half against the Cardinals, they should yield similar results. Of course, I would like to see the 49ers pound the rock in the process, as RB Frank Gore and RB Carlos Hyde only had nine carries, but three wide-receiver sets should be in their game-plan. And with the Eagles to yet allow a tight-end to rack up more than 68 yards while only allowing one touchdown through three games, it looks like TE Vernon Davis may be a non-factor, especially as he continues to recover from his ankle injury.
With the 49ers getting off to a slow start, they will have no choice but to bounce back in a big way, as they try to get back in the win column, and their wide-receivers should play a big role in making that happen.