Why 49ers’ Secondary Must Contain Vikings Wide Receivers

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Getty Images

As the San Francisco 49ers open up their season against the Minnesota Vikings, it will be a game in which the 49ers starting cornerbacks will be under the spotlight. On one side the team has six-year veteran CB Tramaine Brock but who will be his side-kick?

That battle comes down to two players who essentially had red-shirt rookie seasons as CB Kenneth Acker and CB Keith Reaser will be battling it out for that role.

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Acker in my opinion should have the inside track, as his ball skills are far more elite than Reaser. But do not count out Reaser, as he’s had a very strong off-season and can very well overtake the starting job.

Whomever the starter is to start the 2015 season, one thing is for sure, the 49ers secondary will have their hands full as they face not one but two speedy Vikings wide-receivers as seven-year veteran WR Mike Wallace and three-year WR Charles Johnson will likely demand help over the top.

Former 49ers offensive coordinator now turned Vikings OC Norv Turner clearly favors the vertical passing game. A strategy that many NFL teams utilize as they use some variation of the “Air Coryell” passing attack, Turner is one of the best at exposing defenses’ weaknesess week in and week out.

But what makes the Vikings offense so effective? It’s in large part due to having big target wide-receivers. Wallace and Johnson both boast the perfect H-W-S to thrive under Turner’s vertical scheme. Two burners on the outside who have made a living winning 50-50 balls, it’s no wonder the 49ers secondary will have their hands full on Monday Night.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Whether running a quick-screen pass out of trips formation to Wallace or taking a shot downfield off an all-out blitz, you can be sure Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater will win his fair share of battles, as the 49ers defense brings the heat.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Wallace ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at his pro day while Johnson was no slouch by any stretch of the imagination as he blazed a 4.38, so keeping safeties SS Antoine Bethea and FS Eric Reid at bay will be crucial in helping the younger cornerbacks on the backend. And that’s where the key to the passing attack will come into play. 4 New 49ers DC Eric Mangini has yet to reveal his cards but you can be sure he will give Bridgewater an abundance of exotic looks while pressuring the quarterback on any given down. A ideology that is polar opposite to DC Vic Fangio, Mangini will instead counter the Vikings passing attack with stunts and overload blitzes forcing Turner to max-protect at times. If the 49ers can generate a consistent pass-rush down in the trenches, that will do wonders for the cornerbacks on the outside. A cornerback’s best friend is a strong pass-rush (aside from sideline) so look for Mangini to give them help with a 3-3-5 nickel defense, “33 stack,” or a 4-2-5 formation.

With the 49ers defense looking to face a very potent wide-receiver duo, it will be interesting to see how they fare, as Mangini will have his work cut out for him starting Week 1.

And while the pass-rush was lacking last season, I fully expect them to bounce back this time around, as I predict the 49ers to finish the game with at least three sacks on Monday Night Football.


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Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 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 ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.