Lets take a closer look at this week’s opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners won their 1st game over the Rams, and since then have dropped straight. Only one of the 4 losses was close, a heartbreaker against Dallas. They’ve given up at least 25 points every game this season, and quite frankly have been one of worst teams in the league this year.
Quarterback: Alex Smith, the 1st overall pick in the 2005 draft, is now the undisputed 1st string QB. Tim Rattay who started the 1st four games of the season has been dealt to Tampa Bay, leaving the job to Smith. His 1st start was terrible, throwing 4 interceptions and looking very much like the rookie he is. The back up is Ken Dorsey who started last year’s game against the Skins. Last year the Skins picked up 4 balls in the game vs the Niners.
Running Backs: Kevan Barlow is the starter. Many had star expectations for him after showing glimpses early in his career while sharing duties with Garrison Hearst. He has yet to achieve those goals, although his performance has been much better this year. He average 4.1 ypc and has 1 TD. Frank Gore, a rookie from Miami, is the backup and will see some carries. He’s looked good in limited duty averaging 4.4 ypc. Frank Beasley is a good fullback. All 3 RBs are a threat to catch a few balls in this game. Last year the Skins bottled up the running game, holding the 49ers to 55 yards.
Receivers: The loss of tight end Eric Johnson to injury has left the team struggling to find a number one target. Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle are both unproven, but have potential. Lloyd in particular is average 19.2 yard per catch this season, and leads the team with 3 TDs. Battle is a former Notre Dame quarterback, who is still learning the position. Battle bring a lot of options to the table, as evidence by his 2 pass attempts and 5 rushes already this season. Veteran Johnnie Morton is the 3rd WR. Billy Bajema is listed as the starter at tight end, but 3 TEs have catches this year. Steve Bush leads the pack with 3 catches. Johnson lead the Niners with 8 catches in last years game.
Offensive Line: The 49ers have given up 17 sacks through 5 games. In the only game Alex Smith started, he was sacked 5 times. Jonas Jennings was signed in the offseason to stabilize the line, and is the starter at LT. Jeremy Newberry is a veteran center, returned from a injury prone season. Rushing wise they average 3.8 yards per carry, and have one more rushing TD than the Skins. Footballoutsiders ranks them as the 10th best rushing line, although they struggle on power attempts. Most of their successful runs have come to the right side. Passing protection wise they are ranked ahead of only the anemic Houston line. The Skins had 1 sack in last years game (shared by Wynn and Griffin)
Defensive Front Seven: The Niners moved to a 3-4 defense this season. Bryant Young has been rejuvenate by the switch, lining up at end and leads the team with 6 sacks. Julien Peterson is trying to return to his former probowl self, he’s 2nd on the team with 2.5 sacks. Andre Carter, who in the past gave the Skins troubles, has moved to linebacker in the 4-3 set. His stats show that he’s still getting used to his new position. Leading tackler Jeff Ulbrich has been placed on IR with a ruptured bicep. His replacement Saleem Rasheed is also injured, leaving Brandon Moore to start. Peterson has a injured hamstring, but is expected to play. Former Redskin Derek Smith is the leading healthy linebacker with 30 tackles. The Niners currently rank 18th in stopping the run. Last year Portis managed 110 yards on 35 carries.
Secondary: Injuries have come into play here as well. Number 1 corner Ahmed Plummer is out this week with an ankle injury. Mike Rumph is out for the season as well. This leaves Shawnte Spencer and Bruce Thornton as the expected starter this week. Spencer is a 2nd year player who played a lot last year, he’s still looking for his 1st career interception. The other starter is expected to be recent practice squad call up Bruce Thornton. Look for the Skins to try to exploit this, as even before Plummer injuries this wasn’t a good pass defense. They rank last in the league in pass defense. Safety Tony Parrish is good in run support and leads the secondary with 34 tackles. Mike Adams is the other safety.
Special Teams: Joe Nedney is the kicker. Despite being more injury prone than John Hall, he’s still a good one. He’s yet to miss this year, going 3-3 in limited opportunities. He’s kicked for 3 touchbacks this year and the Niners are 2-3 on recovering onside kicks. The punting is handled by Andy Lee, who’s been good this year. He averages 42.9 yards per kick, has 7 kicks within the 20 with zero touchbacks. Rookie Otis Amey is a dangerous punt returner. He’s averaging 16.9 yards per return and already has a 75 yard touchdown return. Kickoff returns are handled by Amey and Maurice Hicks. Hicks has been the better returner thus far with a long return of 40 yards.
Final Analysis: This is not a good football. The Skins should be able to handle them. I expect a few big plays from the Skins, but mainly a ball control display. The Niners are worst in the league in time of possession, which is one category the Skins love to dominate.
Washington 31 San Francisco 3