The 49ers don’t play the Packers until September 8, but we’re killing time over here, so here’s a question for you:
Do the 49ers still match up well against the Packers?
The Packers did not match up well against the 49ers in two games last season, but this offseason Green Bay drafted two running backs – Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin – and a defensive lineman – Datone Jones – and the 49ers lost one of their best players – Michael Crabtree. Do the Packers have the edge over the Niners now?
Probably not. Here are three reasons why:
1. The 49ers beat the Packers on the ground last season. The Niners gained 186 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per carry Week 1, mostly by running Frank Gore around the outside and Kendall Hunter up the middle – the Packers were expecting Gore up the middle and Hunter outside. In the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the 49ers gained 323 rushing yards on 7.5 yards per carry, mostly on the read option out of the pistol formation – something the Packers apparently had never heard of. The Packers have a subpar run defense, and one rookie D-lineman isn’t going to make them drastically better right away.
2. On offense, the Packers favorite formations come out of 11-personnel – one running back, one tight end and one running back. This personnel grouping puts pressure on the running back during pass plays, because he’s usually the sixth blocker, not the tight end. Pass protection is the toughest thing for a rookie running back to learn, and the Packers will be relying heavily on two rookie RBs this season. Those two may not be ready to handle the pass protection assignments from 11-personnel by Week 1, when the Packers play the 49ers at Candlestick. So the Packers may have to use bigger personnel groupings – 12, 21 or 22 – to help the rookie running backs.
3. The Packers lost Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, and are left with three wide receivers – Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Randall Cobb is their best receiver, but he’s much better in the slot than he is outside. Will the Packers start him at flanker in 2-wide-receiver formations? Or will the Packers start Finley and Jones outside – two wide receivers who aren’t going to run by any of the 49ers’ defensive backs? The Packers are in a bind for their upcoming Week 1 game against the 49ers. Three-wide-receiver groupings suit the Packers’ receivers but not their running backs, while two-wide-receiver groupings suit their running backs but not their wide receivers.