I know I may sound like a broken record, but until the San Francisco 49ers (1-6) can prove they can stop the run, it doesn’t make much sense to crown them as winners against the New Orleans Saints (3-4) or anyone else for that matter. The 49ers rank dead last against the rush, and it’s not even close. To make matters worse, the 49ers allow the most yards per rush attempt with a whopping 5.1 average.
Games are won down in the trenches, and until the 49ers can prove they can do that on a consistent basis, I have to roll the other way. Being a faithful is one thing but being a realist is another. Let’s keep it real. The 49ers run defense is downright awful. Whether being out-of-sync on run fits, leveraging their blocks, or release off the stack, it’s becoming more apparent that personnel changes need to be made.
Rookie first-round pick (No. 7) DE DeForest Buckner and last year’s first-round pick (No. 17) DE Arik Armstead have shown glimpses of their Pro Bowl potential at times. But they have not been consistent in setting the edge.
49ers GM Trent Baalke told us that in any given draft there are only about four or five true 3-4 defensive ends in any given draft–who can two-gap, clip, and leverage their blocks. How did that work for defensive end now turned outside linebacker Tank Carradine?
How’s that looking for Armstead? How’s that looking for Buckner? This is not a knock on those players, as both De-Fo and Armstead have the potential to be Pro Bowl players, but at some point you need to start evaluating the other younger players on the roster– especially if you rank dead last in stopping the run. Which leads me to fifth-round pick DE Ronald Blair.
Why he’s not being used in the team’s 3-4 base defense is beyond me. He is far better than Armstead in setting the edge, while being more fundamentally sound at the POA (point of attack). Simply put, I would roll with Buckner and Blair as my book-ends to stop the bleeding. If you remember, I made a bold statement last year saying RG Andrew Tiller should be the starter over RG Jordan Devey. At the time, Tiller was only a practice squad player and wasn’t until the New York Giants game where he really got his opportunity to shine.
Blair is this year’s Tiller. I asked DC Jim O’Neil why Blair hasn’t been used much in the team’s base defense and Coach said he has. I have to somewhat disagree. Blair’s snap count has been sporadic to say the least, and although Armstead is a first-round pick, it’s only fair to put the best 11 players on the field, which is why I believe Blair should be used in base with Armstead rolling in on sub-packages (passing downs).
However, I’m not the coach and don’t get paid the big bucks to make those bold decisions. But something needs to change, because the defense is broke and needs some fixing. This doesn’t all fall on the defensive line, because the second-tier linebackers aren’t necessarily shooting their gaps with ease. It’s a collective effort but everything starts up front especially in the 3-4 base which is why I believe it should be NT Quinton Dial, Buckner and Blair.
With the 49ers run defense looking to get back on track, it’s their pass defense that will also have their work cut out for them. The 49ers will be without their top rookie this Sunday, as fourth-round pick (No. 133) CB Rashard Robinson has been ruled ‘out’ with a knee injury.
This is not good news for Forever Faithful. Why? Well, unfortunately they are going up against future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees. The No. 3 ranked quarterback in terms of passing yards (2,366), Brees seems to be in mid-season form boasting a 4:1 (touchdown to interception) ratio in his last three games.
The beneficiary? Third-year WR Brandin Cooks. A player I was extremely high on coming out of the draft, I thought the 49ers should have took a flier on the diminutive yet versatile wide receiver. But that was all for not. In his last three games, Cooks has amassed 18 catches for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns. Look for a similar output to continue against the 49ers as Cooks’ combination of quickness, speed, and agility prove too much for the secondary to match.
In a game where defense wins championships, I can’t help but think the 49ers will come up short once again, as they lose a blowout 34-16.
Sakamoto: 35-20 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 52.5, I would take the under.
Sakamoto: 33-22 (ATS)
With the 49ers being -4 point underdogs, I’m rolling with the Saints to cover the spread.
Fantasy Football (58/161)
2016: 13 of 21
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks:
RB Mark Ingram
WR Michael Thomas
WR Brandin Cooks
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