49ers Offense VS Rams Defense

*All grades next to players courtesy of Pro Football Focus

  • Brian Hoyer has been far less than stellar this season (42.1). So it’s no secret the 49ers offense will have a huge test in front of him Thursday night, literally huge. The Rams defensive line consists the likes of Aaron Donald (84.3), Robert Quinn (67.8). Connor Barwin (40.7), Michael Brockers (82.0) and Ethan Westbrook (81.1). Hoyer has not had the best two games by far to start his time here in San Francisco, so it will be interesting to see how the career journey-man quarterback responds to all of the criticism.
  • Newly-acquired WR Pierre Garçon (79.3) has been just about everything the 49ers could’ve asked for. The veteran makes his presence known every time he steps on the field. Never having to rely on his speed, Garçon is still a dominant possession receiver for the 49ers. I expect his stock to keep rising this week against a young Rams defense.
  • As we’ve seen the past two weeks, Hoyer appears to be keen to stare down a linebacker and throw straight to him. So, let’s get to know the linebackers he might complete a reception to. Alec Ogletree (33.4)  and former safety Mark Barron (77.1) will be starting in the middle of the Rams defense. This season, Ogletree has totaled 15 tackles and 1.0 sack. Barron has totaled 11 tackles in two games. The linebacking duo (Barron in particular) are quite undersized compared to the average. This might turn into a key contributing factor for the 49ers offense.
  • I’m sure the 49ers were able to point out when watching the film that the Rams gave up a ton of yards before contact last week. Look for the 49ers to run hard straight at the middle of this defense, feeding the NFL’s current leading rusher – Carlos Hyde (65.4) all day.
  • The 49ers will also be facing a secondary consisting of Trumaine Johnson (84.8), Kayvon Webster (45.0), Lamarcus Joyner (89.8) and Maurice Alexander (48.3). CB Johnson and S Joyner both have one interception this season. However, both interceptions were taken back 29 and 39 yards respectively to the house.
  • In my opinion, the biggest challenge the 49ers will notice when facing this year’s Rams defense won’t be on the field. New Defensive-Coordinator Wade Phillips looks to have a huge impact on this young but talented unit. Phillips is known for his aggressive play-calling, and I wouldn’t expect anything less than the sort Thursday night vs the 49ers.

49ers Defense VS Rams Offense

While the 49ers offense for the most part has looked absolutely abysmal so far this season (and talk about putting it nicely), the defense on the other hand, has not. The unit has placed in the top 10 in both scoring and total yards allowed, ninth to be exact. This is huge for a team that finished dead last in most defensive categories just last year. New Defensive-Coordinator Robert Saleh looks to have already left his mark on this young group.

  • The 49ers secondary will be facing an interesting wide receiving group consisting of newly-acquired Sammy Watkins (74.6), Robert Woods (45.8), Pharoh Cooper (58.1) and rookies Cooper Kupp (78.1) and Josh Reynolds (72.5). Although the 49ers will be without the leader of their secondary – Eric Reid (77.4) (and possibly S Jaquiski Tartt [80.1] as well), don’t expect for any of these receivers to really have that big of a game statistically.
  • The Rams carry one of the best backs, if not the best back in all of football in Todd Gurley (70.6). I asked my NB9ers team an interesting question which sparked a debate – which running back would you rather build around: Todd Gurley or Ezekiel Elliot (73.8)? Really, think about it and tweet us your response @Nothingbut9ers! Even without electrifying rookie Reuben Foster (81.6) on the field, I think the 49ers front seven will do a great job at keeping TGII in check Thursday night.
  • The Rams feature a tight end group consisting of Tyler Higbee (39.0), Gerald Everett (82.8) and former-49er Derek Carrier (77.7). None of these tight ends will present much of a mismatch for the 49ers defense. The three of them have combined for eight catches totaling 172 yards. Although Everett has a long of 69, none of the three have reached the end zone yet this season.

Special Teams

I know we don’t usually feature a special teams segment in our Deep Dive Previews, but it would just feel disrespectful to disregard perhaps the greatest punter in the NFL. As evidenced by his recent contract extension – two years/$21 million ($10 million gtd.), Johnny Hekker is a very talented man indeed. This season, Hekker has punted 9 times with an average of 44.4 yards. He also has a long of 55 yards, and was able to get 6 of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. It will be interesting to see if rookie PR Trent Taylor (48.1) is able to continue to average over 12 yards a return (third in NFL) with a punter as skilled as Hekker.  If this games turns out to be a gritty battle with an emphasis on field-position and minimizing mistakes, the Rams might have the upper hand when it comes to punting.

Just look at that beautiful punt!

 

As talented as Hekker might be, may we never forget the moment he was turned into a man-child by Cliff Avril and then Michael Bennett after the Rams punter previously took a cheap shot on Avril.