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Tag:Anthony Davis
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:06 pm
 

Film Room: 49ers vs. Steelers preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


At 10-3, the San Francisco 49ers are fighting for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. With two losses in their last three outings, questions are starting to lurk. Are the Niners indeed a top-tier club with a powerhouse defense and limited-but-fundamentally sound offense? Or are they, like the ’08 Dolphins or 08 Titans, just another middle-tier team that happened to rack up a lot of wins thanks to the good fortunes of turnover differential? (The Niners are currently first in the league at +21).

San Fran’s recent two losses have been to quality 3-4 defenses (Baltimore and Arizona). The Monday night matchup against Pittsburgh could provide the “moment of truth” for Jim Harbaugh’s club.


1. Niners’ protection woes
The Cardinals defense, led by former Steelers assistant Ray Horton, came after Alex Smith & Co. with fervidity and dimension. Horton’s panoply of blitzes brought rushers from all four linebacking spots and, on a few occasions, the secondary. San Francisco’s offensive line, particularly inside with LG Mike Iupati, C Jonathan Goodwin and RG Adam Snyder, floundered in their identification and reaction speed. Two weeks before, those three linemen, along with backup guard Chilo Rachal, were physically manhandled by Haloti Ngata and the tough Ravens front three.

The Niners spend most of their time in base offensive personnel, which has them line up against base defensive personnel. The Steelers are less aggressive than the Cardinals when it comes to blitzing out of base personnel (most of Dick LeBeau’s blitzes come from nickel and dime packages). And, physically, the Steelers defensive front three is not as powerful as the Ravens’.

That said, the trenches mismatch will still be glaring and hard for the Niners to avoid (see items 2 and 3).

2. Niners run game
Jim Harbaugh’s is a run-oriented offense in the purist form. On first and second downs, the 49ers align almost exclusively in 21 or 22 personnel (i.e. two backs and one or two tight ends). The Steelers, at times, even in their base defense with vociferous nose tackle Casey Hampton, have uncharacteristically struggled in run defense this season. But those struggles have come against zone-blocking teams like the Texans, Ravens or Bengals.

The 49ers are a power-blocking team. Their ground game is predicated on size and force, double-teams and interior pulls (Iupati is very mobile; Snyder is often ineffective off movement but can at least physically execute the plays). Power-blocking is not a good formula when facing the Steelers. Their defensive line cannot be consistently driven, and inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior play too fast for slow developing pull blocks to work.

3. Niners pass game
If the Niners do try to stick with their power ground game, they’ll inevitably face a handful of third-and-long situations. That will compel Harbaugh to spread into three-receiver sets. That’s when LeBeau will take advantage of San Francisco’s interior pass protection issues.

One of the hallmark blitzes in LeBeau’s portfolio is the Fire-X, which is when both inside linebackers crisscross and attack the A-gaps. The Steelers execute Fire-X’s better than any team in football. James Farrior is brilliant in timing his blitzes and setting up pass-rushing lanes for teammates. Lawrence Timmons is more explosive than Acetone Peroxide when firing downhill.

What’s more, Troy Polamalu’s versatility becomes more pronounced in passing situations. That’s problematic given how much trouble Adrian Wilson (a poor man’s Polamalu) gave the Niners last week.

Because rushing yards could be tough to come by, it’s very likely that the Niners will throw on early downs out of base personnel (they had success with this formula against the Giants a few weeks ago). To help Alex Smith thrive in these scenarios, Harbaugh has implemented several changes this season – such as using play-action and specific route designs that allow for one-read throws, eliminating sight adjustment routes to ensure that the receivers and quarterback are always on the same page and being very judicious in calling “shot plays” downfield.

But in most games, there are points when a quarterback and his receivers simply have to make things happen. Smith doesn’t have the dynamic tools to consistently do that against a D like Pittsburgh’s. His primary wide receivers don’t have the speed and quickness to regularly separate outside (especially against a star cornerback like Ike Taylor). And, most concerning, his offensive tackles, particularly lackluster second-year pro Anthony Davis, are not formidable enough in pass protection to stave off LaMarr Woodley or even Jason Worilds.

4. Niners defensive line vs. Steelers O-line
The good news for Harbaugh is his defense is capable of posing nearly just as many problems for the Steelers offense. Obviously, Ben Roethlisberger’s health will have a significant impact on this game. You already know the advantages Big Ben gives the Steelers.

Almost as important is the health of center Maurkice Pouncey. Like Roethlisberger, he’s battling a Grade 1 high ankle sprain. Pouncey could not finish the game against Cleveland but says he’ll play Monday night. That’s huge. Without Pouncey, the Steelers would have to slide Doug Legursky from left guard to center, which poses a substantial drop-off in mobility and strength (even if Legursky has been somewhat of an overachiever the last year).

What’s more, Chris Kemoeatu would be forced back into the lineup at left guard. Kemoeatu has been a top ten player at his position the past few years. But for whatever reason, he’s fallen flat on his face this season – mainly in pass protection, where he’s shown poor lateral agility and a proclivity for holding.

Even at full strength, the Steelers offensive line is average and, thus, incapable of completely neutralizing the 49ers front line over four quarters. Left end Justin Smith is as good as they get. Nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga has blossomed into a plugger who’s mobile enough to make plays anywhere in the box.

Right end Ray McDonald is healthy again and flashing uncommon initial quickness. And on passing downs, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith are lightning fast, supple edge-rushers with versatile short-area explosiveness. It’s highly doubtful the Steeler tackles can contain them one-on-one.

5. San Francisco’s defensive back seven
Even if Patrick Willis’ hamstring keeps him out a third-straight game, the Niners have enough speed and burst with NaVorro Bowman and strong safety Donte Whitner to answer Pittsburgh’s methodical rushing attack. The key will be whether San Francisco can hold up in pass defense. The Niners like to play zone in base D and man in nickel or dime.

Without Willis, San Francisco’s zones become somewhat vulnerable inside (we saw this on Early Doucet’s 60-yard touchdown last week). In man, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver are all capable of hanging with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace, but not if Roethlisberger is able to extend the play (Brown is simply too good at making late adjustments to his route, Sanders is similar and Wallace obviously has lethal speed if he can get downfield).

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 15 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 9:58 pm
 

Shaun Smith vs. Mack remind us of painful days

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Shaun Smith has been called many names throughout his playing career. He’s been called a loafer, a trash-talker and he’s been called the Hamburglar (you can see why in this piece).

But one thing he’ll insist that he’s not: that is a nutcracker.

That was the accusation made last year by Browns center Alex Mack and 49ers tackle Anthony Davis in back-to-back weeks when they said Smith grabbed … well … um … you see … OK …  their junk (you can see the latter incident in the video below).

"I don't think he should be able to do that," Mack said at the time. "I'm still fired up about it."

And the next week, Davis had this reaction: “He tried to feel me. That’s weird, right?”

Not weird enough, apparently, to pay a fine or be disciplined in any way whatsoever, and now that Smith and the Titans will face Mack and the Browns in Cleveland, the subject of how testy Smith plays has returned.

“You can’t believe everything you hear,” Smith told the Tennessean. “The league sorted it all out -- no fine.”

Grabbing dudes wasn’t the only nefarious activity in which Smith allegedly participated during his Browns career. He supposedly punched teammate Brady Quinn in the face, and less than a year later, he was released by coach Eric Mangini after getting into an altercation with Bryan Cox at practice.

But for Smith these days, everything is cool.

“I was a little bitter when they let me go because of the situation with the new regime, but I look at everything as funny now because (Mangini), and the situation with Brady Quinn, they aren’t there any more either,” Smith said. “So to me, I got the best of it. I got the last laugh at the end of the day.”



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Posted on: September 27, 2010 10:28 am
Edited on: September 27, 2010 11:14 am
 

The ugly accusations against Shaun Smith

Posted by Andy Benoit

Chiefs defensive end Shaun Smith developed a reputation for being a loafer while in Cleveland (his game film was behind that). Somehow, the sixth-year pro has managed to take his reputation even lower. 

Smith now has S. Smitha reputation as – what shall we call this? – a grabber. As in, he’s been accused of grabbing opponents…you know, down there.

49ers rookie right tackle Anthony Davis was flagged for a personal foul for going after Smith in the third quarter Sunday. Afterwards, Davis told Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, “He tried to feel me. That’s weird, right?”

Yes, Anthony, that is weird. And it was brave of you to talk about it. You did nothing wrong. (Except maybe get the personal foul flag on a crucial third down while trailing 10-3, but even your fiery coach defended you afterwards.)

This is the second week in a row that Smith has been accused of this sort of behavior. Last week, Browns center Alex Mack spoke up. "I don't think he should be able to do that," Mack told The Associated Press the day after the game. "I'm still fired up about it."

Wish we had video or the proper photo here, but in stories like these, the media usually has to settle with a face shot of the accused. Smith at least did us a favor by sort of looking the part.

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Posted on: August 15, 2010 12:43 pm
 

Reasons to watch Sunday's preseason games

Posted by Andy Benoit

Two preseason games on the schedule today: 49ers @ Colts at 1:00 and Broncos @ Bengals at 7:00. Both will air live on NFL Network. Here’s what to watch (or, since it’s preseason, an argument for why to watch):

49ers @ Colts

The debut of San Francisco’s young offensive line. First-round picks Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are both expected to start. Davis, who will initially line up at right tackle, will be the second youngest starter in team history. Iupati’s starting left guard job was locked up when center Eric Heitmann fractured his fibula (forcing incumbent left guard to slide to one spot to his right). Iupati has the perfect skill set for San Francisco’s system.

Broncos @ Bengals

Just another step in the Tim Tebow love fest. Expect the first-round rookie to see action in the second and third quarters. The question is, What kind of packages will Josh McDaniel have for him?

Also, this will be Terrell Owens’s home debut in Cincinnati.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow  @cbssportsnfl   on Twitter   and subscribe to our  RSS Feed .

Posted on: July 30, 2010 1:46 pm
 

Eric Berry tweets that 'the deals done'

First-rounders are signing all over the place, and many of them via Twitter. The 49ers spent the good part of the last hour tweeting about their various draft picks who have signed (Mike Iupati is at the facility right now to sign his five-year deal and they actually posted a picture of Anthony Davis literally inking his contract).

Eric Berry, the Kansas City Chiefs first round draft pick, actually announced his deal via his personal Twitter account , stating that he was "Bout to head to st. Joe!!!" because "Aka the deals done!"

Certainly we'll hear more information about official nature of the deal from the Chiefs soon, as well as the details. For now, though, good news for Kansas City fans.

That also means we now have three top-10 picks (Rolando McClain with the Raiders) and two top-5 picks (Trent Williams with the Redskins and Berry) inked to deals.

Needless to say, it's been a busy day for rookies in the NFL, and it's only about halfway done.

-- Will Brinson

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Posted on: July 1, 2010 11:07 am
 

Rosenhaus captures another first-round client

Super agent Drew Rosenhaus has now added a pair of first-round rookies to his client base. Rosenhaus picked up Dolphins defensive end Jared Odrick (28th pick overall) in late May. Today, Rosenhaus informed Pro Football Talk that he has acquired 49ers left tackle Anthony Davis (11th overall). Davis had previously been a client of Sanat "Sunny" Shah. Shah’s only other client is Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe, who didn’t sign until 12 days into training camp last season.

Rosenhaus’s players are famous for holding out, though the agent said Davis won’t be another Michael Crabtree situation for the Niners. Rosenhaus now represents three 2010 first-round picks (Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul hired Rosenhaus before the Draft).

--Andy Benoit

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter



 
 
 
 
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