In one of the greatest rivalries in NFL history, the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers face off in a nationally televised game this Thursday night. Both teams are coming off less than stellar Sunday performances, and have only a few days to prepare in a shortened week. Injuries have hit the 49ers hard, losing perennial All- Pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis to a groin injury. They'll be without due Aldon Smith to off field issues, and let me say right here that I hope this talented young man gets the help and support he needs to return to the NFL.
I'm honored to welcome David Fucillo to Turf Show Times today. He'll pop into the thread from time to time to answer your questions. If he starts to write in "Niner-ese", simply take out random vowels, add in a consonant of your choice, then add back in the vowel you removed and remove the spaces between the words. So, if he says something like this:
"The Niners are going to win baby!"
It sort of translates to: "TheNinzeargegozingtownibably!" See how easy it is, and you didn't even need Berlitz... Whatever you do, don't try to speak 'Niner-ese" in a bar, or you'll be cut off and have to give some bartender the keys to your Yugo...
We're going to be talking about under the radar players on offense and defense for the Rams and 49ers. Since David's my guest - and he threatened to beat me up if he didn't go first - let's let him start?
The 49ers offense has been pretty much a disaster the last two weeks. They got the rushing game going to some extent against the Colts, but then abandoned it in the second half. It was incredibly frustrating as it was the most success we'd seen since the season-opening win over the Packers.
The 49ers still need to establish the run this week against the Rams, but they have to show some semblance of a passing threat. The 49ers have had problems getting their passing game going the last two weeks, and it sounds like they may shake things up a little bit. The 49ers acquired wide receiver Jon Baldwin in a preseason trade. He has not played thus far, but Harbaugh seemed to infer he might see some action. The 49ers need to figure something out, as the receivers are struggling and Kap is struggling. Baldwin has serious size, and maybe that's enough to make some plays. Fingers remain crossed...
Hmm? Well, after the Rams-Cowboys game, it may be hard to find someone "under the radar"? Now, "under the bus", I can do, but let's stick with the "objet à portée de main". (I didn't do that? Microsoft made me speak French! Curse you Eric Nagle! Why do I feel like eating a Le Royal Cheese? Note to self: Stop re-watching Pulp Fiction late at night...)
The Rams' offense has one single thing to accomplish, and all will be right with the world: Convert on third downs! Not knowing if Daryl Richardson will play this Thursday tightens up the Rams' options on third down. Since offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has openly said short passes are his substitute for the run, I'm going to go with Brian Quick as my under the radar choice to help solve "Troisième pièce" situations... There's that damn French again? I meant to say "third down", but it looks like I'm ordering a fancy shampoo?
Brian Quick has the size to be an effective third down option, and the speed to covert in multiple yardage scenarios. He showed he could handle close coverage last season, with a short yardage play that turned into a touchdown.
"You ate all the Les Frites?
Tell me you're kidding, David?"
The 49ers are likely going to be without outside linebacker Aldon Smith (rehab) and inside linebacker Patrick Willis (groin). That means two new starters will be in action. Michael Wilhoite would get the start in place of Willis. Wilhoite got a ton of work this preseason because Willis was rehabbing a broken hand. He looked solid, and while he lacks Willis' athleticism, he is still a solid backup option. Look for him to get the start and play most if not all the snaps.
At outside linebacker, the 49ers will be relying on Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta to replace Aldon Smith. You can't replace that kind of production, but the 49ers will look to get something out of those two. Skuta was signed primarily as a special teams player, while Lemonier was drafted as a defensive end that would be converted to outside linebacker (in a similar fashion to Aldon Smith). Both actually looked fairly solid rushing the passer in the preseason. Lemonier has serious potential, but also has to work on his game against the run. I suspect we see Skuta working in the base 3-4, and Lemonier getting work in the nickel pass rush situations.
Ahh, the Rams defense. Not unlike Bats, they use radar to detect when Dez Bryant pushes off, and... Eeew! David just threw his Le Royal Cheese at me! Hey! You have Les Frites stuck in your teeth? He's talking with his mouth full, and said something about "TheNinzeargegozingtownibably!"? What the the hell is "echolocation"? It sounds like my shower? Oh, Bats use echolocation, and so do the Rams corner backs? Keep eating David, and whatever you do, don't choke...
My "under the echolocation" Rams player on defense is rookie safety T.J. McDonald. Colin Kaepernick likes to throw up the middle, and he's been known to run just a tad too. Both these situation will drastically effect young T.J. this Thursday night. He'll be covering over the top against Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis if he's healthy. Plus, he'll be crucial when it comes to stopping the run.
I'd like to thank David Fucillo for dropping by, and even though he ate $173.43 worth of French McDonald's while he gave us his insights, it's worth it.