Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Does the 49ers Defense Miss Aldon Smith?

The 49ers defense is coming off perhaps its most impressive performance of the season.  They put a beating on St Louis last Thursday, but let's be honest, the Rams offense is not very good. The Rams rushing offense came into the game against San Francisco 29th in the NFL, averaging only 57 yards per game and as a result of being one dimensional their offensive line was struggling to pass protect.  That won't be the case come Sunday night.

The Texans come into this game leading the NFL in plays from scrimmage (302) and with the 5th ranked offense in the NFL, averaging just over 134 yards per game (7th) on the ground, and 276 yards per game (9th) through the air.  In addition to this the Texans have averaged 28.5 rushing attempts per game for an average of 4.7 yards per attempt.  In short,  they do everything that causes problems for the 49ers defense.

Does the 49ers defense miss Aldon Smith?  Look what the Colts were able to do on the ground against the 49ers 2 weeks ago.  In that game the Colts called 33 designed running plays.  The Colts ran the ball in the direction of Aldon Smith on 23 of those plays and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

The following week the Rams attempted to run at Smith's replacement, Dan Skuta on only 3 of their 16 designed running plays.  The Rams didn't really test him.  Something tells me that the Texans will.  The Texans have a very nice 1-2 punch at running back with Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

Foster has been amoung the top backs in the league over the last 3 years, averaging over 1400 yards during that time.  However, Foster has seen his average yards per carry drop each season, from a high of 4.9 in 2010 down to 3.8 so far through the first four games of 2013.

That's where Tate comes in.  Entering his fourth season with the Texans, Tate has been tremendous when called upon.  Through the first four games of 2013, Tate has averaged 6.7 yards per carry.  Even more impressive than that is Tate's average after contact.  According to Pro Football Focus, Tate is averaging 4.5 yards after contact, that's more than Foster's average per rush.  In addition, Tate has at least one run of 10 yards or more in each game so far this season.

Skuta only plays in the base defense, being replaced by rookie Corey Lemonier when the 49ers shift into their Nickle/Dime packages.  Lemonier did a very good job on Thursday night in those situations.  Although he did not register a sack, Lemonier was consistently disrupting the pocket and forcing Sam Bradford to move.

This week Lemonier and the 49ers offense will be tasked with slowing down the 9th best passing team in the NFL.  Despite the recent struggles of Matt Schaub throwing interceptions that are returned for touchdowns, the Texan offense has average 276 yards per game.

The Texans offensive line has given up 11 sacks on the season, but to put that number in perspective you need to factor in the fact that the Texans have also thrown 177 passes.  To compare, the Texans offensive line has allowed a sack on 6% of their passing plays while the 49ers offensive line is currently allowing a sack on 8.5% of their pass plays.

Lemonier will find himself up against Texans LT Duane Brown.  Brown has been a solid protector of Schaub's blind side, but has missed some time recently with a toe injury.  Despite the injury, all reports from Houston point to Brown being ready to go on Sunday and will provide a much better test for Lemonier's pass rush skills.

Does the 49ers defense miss Aldon Smith?  We'll find out on Sunday night.

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