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Key matchup: Niners interior offensive line vs. Lions DTs

Pro Football Weekly
Key matchup: Niners interior offensive line vs. Lions DTs
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Key matchup: Niners interior offensive line vs. Lions DTs

In today’s “Key Matchup,” PFW’s Dan Arkush focuses on the Niners' interior offensive line vs. the Lions DTs in this Sunday’s nationally televised primetime game in San Francisco.

Niners interior offensive line (OLG Mike Iupati, C Jonathan Goodwin and ORG Alex Boone) vs. Lions DTs Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Nick Fairley

The Lions’ banged-up secondary could be facing a huge challenge this Sunday evening going up against an improved Niners passing attack with new key weapons such as WRs Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. What could help the Lions DBs considerably is the same kind of collective pressure that the Detroit DT trio of Suh, Williams and Fairley provided in Detroit’s Week One come-from-behind win over the upstart Rams.

No doubt helped somewhat by the foot injury that forced Rams C Scott Wells out of the season opener, Suh, Williams and Fairey each had sacks in Week One, with Williams also adding a forced fumble. Their matchup against the Niners’ trio of Iupati, Goodwin and Boone could be a bit more taxing.

Consider the job the Niners’ interior O-line did last Sunday on Packers NT B.J. Raji, the second-ranked NFC DT in the PFW 2012 Preview Magazine player rankings behind Suh.

Raji put a fair amount of pressure on Goodwin but tailed off in the second half. He had far less success with Boone, who made a convincing case for the Niners’ decision to make him the new starter at right guard this season with a quietly efficient effort in Green Bay. Not only were the Niners very effective running to Boone’s side; Boone also moved Raji out of Niners QB Alex Smith’s throwing lane on Smith’s TD pass to Moss.

Entering the league as an undisciplined, out-of-shape undrafted rookie, Boone has transformed his body and cleaned up his act, doing a commendable job converting to an unfamiliar position.

Iupati was solid last season but came nowhere close to reaching his first-round potential. But he is emerging as an enforcer and has become a master at the trap block. A really mellow fellow off the field, Iupati is the polar opposite on the field, possessing a very mean streak. He has great size, long arms and hands and a very strong upper body with outstanding functional playing strength. He’s also a strong drive blocker who carries his weight well, and his combination of size, brute strength, mobility and arm length make him an up-and-coming left guard of the highest order.

Goodwin was referred to by head coach Jim Harbaugh as a “block of granite” last season. The 33-year-old ex-Saint is a quiet, low-key workhorse who offers great maturity. Goodwin started all 16 games last season and did a great job communicating calls and understanding defenses.

After a tremendous rookie campaign with 10 sacks and 66 tackles, Suh came crashing down to earth last season with only four sacks and 36 tackles in 14 games. He missed two games after being suspended for trying to carve a hole in the chest of Packers OL Evan Dietrich-Smith with his spikes in an embarrassing Thanksgiving Day performance last season. Suh also was not nearly at his best against the Niners in Week Six last season, when he had only two assists in San Francisco’s 25-19 victory — a game in which the Niners ran wild (203 rushing yards).

But most league observers still consider Suh a rare talent with outstanding natural tools, and he got his 2012 season off to a decent start against the Rams.

Williams is a steady starter with good quickness and power.

Fairley, a first-rounder like Suh, was bothered by a foot injury as a rookie but showed major promise at times.

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