As the San Francisco 49ers prepare for a very underrated Minnesota Vikings defense on opening day, it will be interesting to see them go back to their smash-mouth ways. A cultural identity that was sorely lacking last season, it appears that 49ers new head coach Jim Tomsula will revert back to their bread-and-butter that helped lead the way to three consecutive NFC Championship Games.
The 49ers who will be without the team’s all-time leading rusher, RB Frank Gore for the first-time since 2005, will instead tackle a running back-by-committee approach as second-year RB Carlos Hyde and 10-year veteran RB Reggie Bush will garner the lion share of the carries.
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Bush, who will likely take on a third-down role while being used off the read-option, should be able to create some nice runs, as he goes up against the Vikings front seven.
Led by Vikings six-year veteran DE Everson Griffen who led the team with 12 sacks last season, it’s the play of third-year DT Sharrif Floyd that should have Forever Faithful worried. A player who was once considered a sure-fire top five selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, Floyd’s stock fell and as a result landed with the Vikings with the No. 23 overall pick.
Now, as he enters his third season, it will be up to the 49ers offensive line to contain the Florida product.
An offensive line that is shaky at best along the right side, you can be sure 49ers OL coach Chris Foerster will incorporate a zone-blocking scheme aimed at attacking the edge of DE Brian Robison.
Robison is by far the team’s weakest link against the run, as he had a -6.7 run defense grade by Pro Football Focus. Luckily for the 49ers he plays on the left-side meaning he will be matched up against RT Erik Pears.
A matchup of weakness vs. weakness, look for the 49ers to win that battle as Pears has the size and strength to kick outside while creating cut back lanes for his running backs. However, can Pears hit the second-level successfully against OLB Chad Greenway? That’s the question.
Greenway is a tackling machine and is exceptional at diagnosing run while shooting the gaps. A two-time Pro Bowl player, it will be up to both Pears and newly acquired RG Jordan Devey to keep Greenway in check.
If the 49ers lineman can hit the second-level with ease, look for both Hyde and Bush to run for some big gains as they have the speed and power to create yards after contact.
With the 49ers looking to re-establish the run, it will need to start up front, as the team faces a very stout Vikings front seven capable of causing havoc in the backfield. A test of weakness vs. weakness, look for the 49ers to exploit the left side as they have the goons up front to impose their will down in the trenches.
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