The San Francisco 49ers (1-0) once again defied Vegas odd-makers on Monday Night Football by defeating the Los Angeles Rams (0-1) in a lopsided 28-0 victory. A game that displayed the 49ers winning their battles down in the trenches on both sides of the ball, it will be interesting to see how they respond this week against the Carolina Panthers (0-1).
The reigning NFC Champions will be making their home debut this Sunday. Not good news for a 49ers team who has to play on a short week all while traveling across country – playing on an east coast time zone. Simply put, the cards are stacked against the 49ers. To make matters worse, the team could be without their top interior offensive lineman, RG Andrew Tiller.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) January 22, 2016
Tiller who has been the unquestioned starter on the right-side of the offensive line, has been limited throughout practice- dealing with an ankle injury. He is listed as ‘questionable’ for tomorrow’s game. This spells disaster if Tiller is unable to go. Why? Because the next man-up is G/C Marcus Martin.
I agree. I didn’t like Reid pick. Kyle Long, Sharrif Floyd or Kawaan Short I had ranked higher on my board https://t.co/scck8MUmnG
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) December 24, 2015
Martin easily gets bull-rushed at the point of attack. I have been saying this since day one. The Panthers defensive tackles are extremely stout at the POA (point of attack) with the ability to collapse the pocket in a hurry. Football is a game of match-ups making this one an easy win for Panthers DT Star Lotuleilei and DT Kawaan Short.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 23, 2015
Lotuleilei knocked out 38 reps at the NFL scouting combine, and at 6-2, 311, has the movement skills to stack-and-shed Martin like a rag-doll. The same can be said of 2015 second-team All-Pro, Short.
At 6-2, 299, Short knocked out 29 reps at the NFL scouting combine, and his bread and butter pass-rush move is…wait for it…the bull-rush. Knowing this, I’m sure the 49ers will be protecting Martin on Sunday if Tiller is unable to go. Whether that means having RB Carlos Hyde stay back in pass-pro (pass-protection) on obvious passing down instead of coming out of the flat or using combo blocks with RT Trent Brown before hitting the second-level, this will undoubtedly be my point of emphasis throughout the game.
#49ers G/C Marcus Martin and G Brandon Thomas are both getting man-handled down in the trenches with simple bull-rush.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) August 5, 2015
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 30, 2015
If Martin starts the game, I don’t anticipate the 49ers having any offensive success against the Panthers defense. In the game of football everything starts up front, and in my opinion, Martin has shown time and time again that he’s not fit for this offense. Prove me wrong MM.
We haven’t even began to talk about All-Pro Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly. A read-and-react style of player, Kuechly has the cognitive capability to fly to the football based on his pre-snap recognition. Smart, savvy, and very athletic are words on how I would describe the Boston College product.
If #49ers G Alex Boone departs via free-agency the team better pick up a solid Guard to replace him because Marcus Martin not the answer
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) December 17, 2015
If Martin has trouble containing Lotuleilei, Short or Louisiana Techn rookie DT Vernon Butler, this could very well mean that the 49ers offense is one-dimensional, which then means little points on the board.
No question, this 49ers offensive line is far better than last year but the depth behind the starters is thin. We don’t know the status of RT Anthony Davis (concussion) while promising rookie OG Joshua Garnett has yet to crack his way into the rotation.
If the 49ers are unable to endure success on the right side, then that could spell disaster for the offense as a whole. A domino-effect from the run game to the passing-game will definitely take a hit. Hopefully, 49ers HC Chip Kelly can play to his player’s strengths and hide this weakness-some way somehow.
While the 49ers offense may have trouble moving the chains, it will be up to the 49ers stingy defense to keep them in it. I’m a firm believer that defense’s win championships and 49ers DC Jim O’Neil will surely have his hands full on Sunday as he faces 2015 MVP QB Cam Newton.
We all know that Newton can win games with both his arm and legs but what about the players around him? I’m talking about his all-important security blanket on the seams and posts – TE Greg Olsen.
The Miami product has the catching radius and separation skills to create easy target-points for Newton to hit. Whether running down the seams on a skinny-post or quick-hitch, Olsen must be accounted for at all times. Expect the 49ers outside linebackers (OLB Eli Harold, OLB Tank Carradine, and OLB Ahmad Brooks) to be very physical with him off the line of scrimmage- holding him for dear-life during the first five-yards in hopes of throwing off the rhythm/timing.
— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) September 15, 2016
O’Neil will then likely use his versatile FS Eric Reid to relive some pressure on the back-end by supplying help over the top. If the 49ers can somehow take away Newton’s safety net, look for the 49ers front seven to then create some pressure up-front.
The Panthers offensive line is good but not great. Exotic looks will be O’Neil’s MO (method of operation) heading into this matchup, to confuse Newton pre-snap. Sending pressure from all-sides while leaving his cornerbacks on an island outside may be in the works. However, don’t expect for 49ers DB Jimmie Ward to mirror WR Kelvin Benjamin anytime soon.
The best way to attack the Panthers big, physical, wide-receivers is using a mix-and-match on down-and-distance. Ward will be matched up against WR Ted Ginn Jr. in the slot while then covering WR Devin Funchess at times. All depends on the down and distance, as the Ward vs. Benjamin matchup will not be a one-on-one exclusive-mutual matchup throughout the game.
A tough time for the 49ers defensive backs, look for Ward to hold his own while Newton and company may pick on the other starting CB Tramaine Brock.
With the 49ers being -13.5 point underdogs, I can’t see the 49ers covering if Martin starts at right-guard. However, if Tiller starts, my thinking changes dramatically. However, whoever starts at right guard, I can’t see the 49ers winning in the end, as the Panthers win a blowout, 31-13.
Sakamoto: 34-15 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 45, I would slightly take the under. In a game where the Panthers score at least 24 points, expect the 49ers offense to be stagnant on offense, as they will have a hard time moving the chains.
Sakamoto: 30-19 (ATS)
With the 49ers being -13.5 point underdogs, I would take the Panthers. A game in which I can see the 49ers easily covering the spread, I don’t think that will happen as the Panthers defense will prove to be too much for the 49ers offense.
Fantasy Football (52/152)
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks.
TE Greg Olsen
WR Kelvin Benjamin
RB Jonathan Stewart
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