5 Quick defensive thoughts from Scott:
- DeForest Buckner has officially moved himself into the conversation as an elite defensive lineman, but the performances of other defensive players and the offense has meant that his excellent performances haven’t been rewarded with a win. He has another opportunity to take over a game today – facing former Cardinals flameout Jonathan Cooper. The 49ers should line up Buckner over Cooper on passing downs as much as they can and let their man make some plays. This time, with several other players trending up, Buck might just get rewarded for his strong play.
- Jaquiski Tartt is one such player trending up. After a inconsistent performance on opening day (with big highs and lows) he has been consistently excellent, shutting down tight ends and running backs in the passing game and playing in attack mode against the run. If he can lock up Jason Witten and Zeke underneath in the passing game and continue to make plays against the run, the 49ers have an outstanding chance to grab their first win.
- On the subject of shutting down Zeke, Reuben Foster will also have a major role to play in shutting down the former Buckeye. The 49ers’ rookie takes on the critical MIKE linebacker role where a good performance over the course of a full match (after his outstanding 11 snap effort against the Panthers) will reignite the hype train that was unceremoniously halted during its maiden journey in Week 1.
Rashard Robinson is another who’s hype train was brought to a screeching halt by some shaky preseason moments and a bevy of penalties. To his immense credit, the second year man has bounced back. To be fair to Robinson, the nature of his role (man corner or deep third primarily) means any errors he makes are inherently magnified and he has been at least solid for the vast majority of his snaps. He has been much better than that these last two weeks. Now he faces a major potential block on the line in Dez Bryant, as the big Cowboys receiver will try to halt 33’s resurgence. Bryant however has struggled this season, especially with the press coverage Robinson specialises in. Athletically, Robinson arguably matches Bryant and he has the length to give Bryant problems. A good performance tonight will surely alter the widely negative perceptions of the second year man. A poor one will further give the haters ammunition.
- Xavier Cooper could have a key role this week. Last week he flashed as a run defender and an interior pocket pusher after Arik Armstead went down. Given the absence of Armstead and Carradine – the 49ers’ top two strong side ends – the 49ers’ revitalised run defense could be vulnerable to the Cowboys’ much vaunted rushing attack. If Cooper has a strong game, the 49ers have a much better chance of getting something out of this game.