COMMENTARY | The San Francisco 49ers travel across the pond to take on a winless Jacksonville Jaguars team in London on Sunday afternoon. It's a rather long trip for both teams, but we can rest assured that the 49ers are more than ready to go for their fifth consecutive win against a team that appears to be way out of their league.
With that said, San Francisco will need to come into this game prepared to take on a Jaguars team that will be pumped to be playing in front of an international audience.
Here are five 49ers players to watch against Jacksonville on Sunday.
Jacksonville's defense ranks dead last in the NFL against the run at 153.3 yards per game. Its also yielding an average of 4.6 yards per rush, which is the fifth-highest mark in the league. In what has to be considered a major matchup advantage for the 49ers, they rank third in the NFL in rushing offense at 143.3 per game. The benefactor of this discrepancy will be Gore, who is averaging nearly 100 yards on the ground over the course of the last five games and ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards through seven weeks.
If Gore can get it going early, San Francisco's passing game will open up down the field against a young secondary. This will enable the likes of Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis to find single coverage against less-than-stellar cover men. If so, the 49ers are going to be able to move the ball up and down the field.
Dorsey was able to go last week against the Tennessee Titans, but his impact was minimal due to a hamstring injury. Dorsey ended up playing a total of 12 snaps while splitting time with youngsters Tony Jerod-Eddie and Quinton Dial. Despite not being a force against the run that the 49ers expected from Ian Williams, who went out Week 2 with a season-ending ankle injury, Dorsey has played extremely well in his first season with the team. He's also provided a solid pass-rush threat from the interior of the line with Justin Smith and Ray McDonald flanking him from the edges.
If Dorsey is anywhere near 100 percent in this game, he will help put pressure on Chad Henne from the inside, while the 49ers send blitz packages to the outside from the linebacker position. This will force Henne into throwing the ball before he's ready and may cause some happy feet from a quarterback that's been known to prance around in the offensive backfield.
This may be Williams' final chance to prove that he can be a valuable contributor for the 49ers in the passing game. The enigmatic but talented four-year veteran has caught just 10 passes on 22 targets as San Francisco's default No. 2 wide receiver opposite Boldin. With Mario Manningham set to return after the bye and Michael Crabtree a few weeks after that, Williams needs to make an impact against a rookie cornerback in the form of Dwayne Gratz. If he fails to do this, there is actually a slight possibility that Williams might find himself without a roster spot prior to the end of the season. I want to see how he reacts to the pressure.
Over the course of the last three games, Davis has been targeted a whopping 24 times and has come down with 330 yards and three scores. Needless to say, the talented tight end has found a nice rhythm with Kaepernick. if Davis can continue to provide that consistent downfield threat, it will help open up lanes for Bolden as well as Crabtree and Manningham in the intermediate passing game once they return. More good news here for the fans of the red and gold, Jacksonville is yielding an average of five receptions for 64 yards against opposing tight ends this season.
While Paul Posluszny is decent against the pass, he doesn't possess the athletic ability to go up against Davis one on one from the linebacker position. In addition, free safety Josh Evans leaves a whole heck of a lot to be desired in coverage. Davis should have a field day here.
One major disadvantage for the 49ers in this one has to be Rogers going up against electric young Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon on the outside. In order to contain the 2012 first-round pick, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have to employ the same coverage we saw against Larry Fitzgerald a couple weeks ago. This means to utilize underneath coverage from the cornerback, in this case Rogers, while providing help over the top from either Donte Whitner or Eric Reid. That's the only way Rogers will be able to contain the physical receiver. There is also a possibility that San Francisco will employ mixed coverage on Blackmon with both Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown taking shot at him. Either way, Rogers will not succeed if he's forced into man-to-man coverage against Blackmon.
The 49ers have matchup advantages all over the field and are clearly the better team in nearly every aspect of the game against the Jaguars. It's about keeping their eye on the prize and not looking forward to what is going to be a much needed bye week. These five players can help the 49ers obtain that goal. If so, San Francisco will win this game going away and enter that bye with a 6-2 record.
Vincent Frank has been covering the National Football League for three years. He started out writing for Niners Nation and was a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. His work has been published on CNN, Pro Football Focus and BR, among other sites.
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