Stop. The. Run. Stop. The. Run. That has been the storyline surrounding the San Francisco 49ers (1-7) bleak season this year. A team that once proud themselves on imposing their will down in the trenches– that hasn’t been the case in 2016, evident by being dubbed as the league’s worst in that category.
Some within the media place the blame on DC Jim O’Neil, while others place blame on the players on the field. Whatever the case, this 49ers defense is downright awful.
So what should the Forever Faithful expect in Week 10 against the division rival Arizona Cardinals? While the 49ers will be without their 2015 first-round pick (No. 17) DE Arik Armstead, whose season abruptly ended due to a nagging shoulder injury, there doesn’t seem to be too much depth behind him to think things will improve anytime soon.
I asked 49ers head coach Chip Kelly how Armstead’s injury affects the depth chart along the defensive line, and he told me that changes were in motion. For one, NT Mike Purcell, who was benched (inactive) last week after being named the Week 1 starter at nose guard, will now relish that role once again. That then moves DE Quinton Dial back outside to left defensive end in the team’s 3-4 base.
#49ers desperately need a NT this off-season. It’s by far the team’s most important position playing in 3-4 base & it’s starting to show.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) November 13, 2016
What does this mean? That this team has no answers whatsoever along the defensive line. The most important position playing in an odd-man front is by far the team’s nose guard. He is the one who sets the tone as the two-gap plugger, which then makes life easier for his counterparts around him. If the nose guard is unable to stay upright ala Purcell, then that has a negative impact on the linebackers behind him.
The loss of NT Ian Williams just goes to show how invaluable and prized asset he was both on and off the field.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) November 13, 2016
The nose tackle position clearly needs to be addressed this off-season. Sure, it’s only a two-down player but if the team can’t stop the run, that makes third downs an afterthought. Why an afterthought? Because if the opposing team does happen to find themselves in third-down situations, odds are they will be in third and manageable.
Up to this point, no 49ers defensive lineman has been worthy of praise in the run game. I don’t see that changing, unless the team wise’s up and starts playing rookie fifth-round pick DE Ronald Blair.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) November 7, 2016
Blair, is the team’s best kept secret and should be playing in the team’s 3-4 base whether Armstead is healthy or not. He is better suited at setting the edge, disengaging off the stack, and peaking into the backfield, flushing plays back inside. It’s clear as night and day for me. So why is the coaching staff continuing to play Purcell and DE Tony Jerod-Eddie instead of Blair? Your guess is as good as mine.
If this team is really looking to evaluate their future moving forward, they need to first figure out what their young core players can and can’t do. Will Purcell be back next season? Will TJE? Probably not. But one thing is for sure, Blair will be in the team’s plans, and they need to give him some serious playing time so they can better evaluate the team’s front seven depth heading into the off-season. Otherwise you’re going into the off-season once again blind-folded.
Same goes with second-year SS Jaquiski Tartt. He has the potential to be a good safety in this league, but we will never truly see his full potential if he doesn’t get lion share of the reps. No offense to SS Antoine Bethea but I think it’s safe to say his career is on the decline. He takes too many poor angles while not having the second-gear to be the last line of defense. Will Tartt fare any better? Who knows. But at some point you have to give the Samford product a shot! And that time is now! No excuses.
Which brings me to the game itself, starting with Cardinals RB David Johnson. The No. 4 ranked rusher in the NFL while pacing the NFL in total yards from scrimmage, the second-year player from Northern Iowa is surely on par to keep that pace going in Week 10.
At 6-1, 224, Johnson has the rare combination of speed (4.50), strength (25 reps), and explosion (41.5 vertical) and 6.82 second short-shuttle that scouts love. Just ask coach Kelly as he had nothing but rave reviews about the big bruising runner:
“I think he’s got a unique presence,” Kelly said. “I think he has the ability to run inside the tackles because of his size, but he also has the ability, speed and athleticism to get to the perimeter and then the other thing with him that was really unique and you knew it coming out and I know when we scouted him when I was in Philadelphia at the time when he was coming out is what a great pass receiver he is.”
I’m keeping it 100. If you’re an offensive coordinator my game-plan is simple…smash-mouth to victory. And that’s exactly what Johnson will do on Sunday as he goes for well over 150 plus yards from scrimmage while scoring at least one touchdown in the process.
Aside from Johnson, the 49ers secondary needs to worry about the Cardinals big bodied wide receivers, as the duo of WR Larry Fitzgerald and WR Michael Floyd will likely prove to be too much for the young 49ers secondary. Football is a game of match-ups and unfortunately for the 49ers they don’t have the horses to keep up with the Cardinals.
As for the 49ers offense, I don’t see them playing much of a factor in this game, as they face the Cardinals No. 1 ranked defense–ultimately losing a blowout 38-6.
Sakamoto: 35-21 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 48, I would slightly take the under.
Sakamoto: 34-22 (ATS)
With the 49ers being -14 point underdogs, I’m rolling with the Cardinals to cover the spread.
Fantasy Football (60/164)
2016: 15 of 24
RB David Johnson
WR Larry Fitzgerald
WR Michael Floyd
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks:
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