Sakamoto: Why 49ers Must Contain Cam Newton’s Security Blanket, Greg Olsen

Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for the San Francisco 49ers they don’t have the luxury of a OLB Julian Peterson at their disposal. A versatile player possessing the ability to play multiple positions along the defensive front, Peterson was the one player you can match up one-on-one with a tight-end throughout the course of a game.

Just go back to the dirty archives in a Nov. 10, 2002, 49ers 17-13 win. A matchup where Peterson suffocated then Kansas City Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez, limiting him to one catch for six yards, while handcuffing the All-Pro tight-end off the line-of-scrimmage, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.


But this is not the same team, same scheme, or same era, as 49ers HC Chip Kelly said it will be a collective effort for his squad. I asked Coach during today’s press conference if he would match-up FS Eric Reid one-on-one with Panthers TE Greg Olsen since that’s QB Cam Newton’s security blanket:

Talking about Eric Reid and your analysis on him covering tight ends. You guys are going against a very good one in Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen, who really is Cam Newton’s security blanket. How do you guys plan on attacking his skill-set and knowing full well that that’s Cam Newton’s number one target?

“Well, I think in any of those situations, there just can’t be one way to do it and just say, ‘Hey, Eric has him,’ because Cam’s too good and Olsen’s too good, Coach Kelly said. “

They know how to attack different things and kind of what you’re doing. So, we’ll have to present them with multiple looks in terms of how we’re doing it and we’re also going to have to have more than one guy know where the tight end is because he is the focal point of what they’re doing, especially in the passing game and he is such a difficult guy to cover. So, there’s going to be multiple looks that he’ll see and that Cam will see, and then multiple guys that have to really contribute to defending the tight end in this game.”

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Let’s break up that quote. So what Coach Kelly is saying here is that he will use multiple different fronts in order to rattle Newton’s pre-snap recognition. In doing so, this also means that various personnel groupings will see the field based on specific down and distance. Since Coach Kelly said it will be a collective effort that basically means one thing- some variance of the bracket coverage when dealing with Olsen.

Whether that’s lining up an outside linebacker like OLB Eli Harold pre-snap while then rolling back-end help over the top with SS Antoine Bethea or playing inside/outside leverage with ILB Navorro Bowman, the 49ers front 7 will surely have their hands full come Sunday, as Olsen rarely gets down in a three-point stance.

How will the 49ers attack the Pro Bowl tight-end? Time will tell.

A two-time second-team All-Pro selection (2014 and 2015), Olsen will be out for blood on Sunday. In Olsen’s last 33 regular-season games, he has recorded 168 catches for 2,185 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.