Hearing voices? Willis expected to wear green dot

There might be someone new wearing the green dot on the 49ers’ defense Sunday against the Eagles.

Linebacker Patrick Willis was outfitted this week with a radio device in his helmet. This would seem to be the next logical step in Willis’ evolution as a team leader.

 

Up to this point, free safety Mark Roman had the responsibilities of relaying defensive personnel and the play call to his teammates.

 

When contacted today to get confirmation that Willis will be wearing the speaker in his helmet for Sunday’s game against the Eagles, a team spokesman said, “(It’s) still undecided for tomorrow’s game.”

 

This is the first season in which information from the sideline can be radioed to one defensive player. Players with the radio device are identified by having a green dot on the backs of their helmets.

 

Check the blog tomorrow morning for the official word prior to the 1:15 p.m. kickoff against the Eagles.

 

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One reader yesterday had a comment about Vernon Davis’ pass-blocking. The question was legitimate: If Davis is such a good pass-blocker, why have the 49ers given up so many sacks?

 

My apologies for not having these numbers for the entire season, but . . . in the past two games the 49ers have surrendered seven sacks. Davis was in pass protection on only two of those sacks. On two plays resulting in sacks, he was running a pass route; and he was not on the field for three of those sacks.

 

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OK, folks, here we go again. This is two weeks in a row. I wish I could take back my assertion that last week’s game against the Patriots fell under this category, because Sunday’s game against the Eagles really is . . .

 

A GPS game!

 

If the 49ers win this game – believe it or not, I think they have a strong chance to win this game – they’ll be back in the thick of things in the NFC West. If they lose, things could get a lot uglier before they get better.

 

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Here is a look at some of the key matchups:

 

49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz vs. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson: Yes, these men have a history. Last year when the Lions played the Eagles, QB Jon Kitna threw for 446 yards. Pretty good, huh? Well, the Lions gained just 39 yards rushing on 11 carries, and Kitna was sacked 10 times for minus-53 yards in the Eagles’ 56-21 victory. It goes to show that unless the 49ers prove they can slow down the Eagles’ blitz, Johnson will continue to turn his defense loose on the 49ers. In head-to-head, Martz-Johnson matchups, they are 3-3. One of those Johnson wins, however, was the final game of the 1999 season when the Rams rested most of their offensive stars. In 2004, Steven Jackson rushed for 148 yards, as the Rams rolled up 419 yards of total offense, in a 20-7 win in St. Louis. The home team has won all but one of their six previous matchups. Johnson loves to blitz, and Martz better have some answers or else J.T. O’Sullivan is going to have a very dirty uniform.

 

RT Barry Sims vs. DE Juqua Parker: Sims might get a break, as Parker has been hobbled with a knee injury. He is officially listed as questionable for the game. Parker (formerly known as Juqua Thomas before an offseason name change) leads the Eagles with 3.5 sacks, and Sims has struggled in pass protection since taking over for injured Jonas Jennings. Martz might be inclined to move Davis to this side to give Sims a helping hand from time-to-time.

 

TE Vernon Davis vs. SLB Chris Gocong: If the past few games are any indication, Davis will be left in for pass protection about half the time on pass plays. But look for the 49ers to try to get down the field a little more with Davis – something Martz has been promising for a while. If that’s the case, it’ll be up to Gocong to put a nice hit on Davis and re-route him off the line of scrimmage. Davis has just five catches in five games this season.

 

QB J.T. O’Sullivan vs. FS Brian Dawkins: O’Sullivan admitted that on one of his interceptions last week his eyes were in the wrong spot. He did not see the safety creep up in coverage against Arnaz Battle. O’Sullivan better keep an eye open for Dawkins, a 13-year pro who has 33 career interceptions and has been one of the big hitters in the NFL for a while. O’Sullivan needs a strong game after throwing five picks in his last two games.

 

49ers defensive coaches Greg Manusky/Mike Nolan vs. Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg: Mornhinweg does not get the credit he deserves as being a very good offensive coach. He does not have Brian Westbrook at his disposal today, but he’ll try to keep the 49ers’ defense off-balance with a mix of Donovan McNabb’s passing and Correll Buckhalter’s running. The 49ers have to rid themselves of the shackles and play aggressive defensive ball. That needs to be evident on third downs, when the 49ers have seemed content to allow the first down – as long as they don’t surrender the big play.

 

CB Walt Harris vs. WR DeSean Jackson: Harris is a veteran who won’t be able to run with Jackson. Harris generally matches up against the slot receiver, and he will have his hands full against Jackson on vertical routes. Jackson loves double-moves. If Harris bites too much on the first move, Jackson will still have to contend with the deep safety to hit on the home-run ball. Jackson wants this one big-time, and you better believe if he gets the chance he won’t toss the ball away before reaching the end zone. He thought the 49ers would take him in the first round. Instead, the 49ers passed on him with their first two picks. He leads the Eagles with 23 catches for 335 yards and one touchdown.

 

DE Justin Smith vs. LT Tra Thomas: Smith might get more action at outside linebacker this week, as the 49ers could run more of their 3-4 defense. Smith will do a lot of moving around, but he’ll be lined up against Thomas, a three-time Pro Bowler, for a good portion of the game. Thomas has done a fantastic job for 11 season of protecting McNabb’s blindside. Smith is a very active player who will force Thomas to work hard from snap to whistle.

 

LB Patrick Willis vs. RB Correll Buckhalter: Willis needs to attack the line of scrimmage to make sure when he stops Buckhalter it’s for minimal yardage, instead of 5 or more yards down the field. Buckhalter gets the call today in place of Westbrook, who is out with two fractured ribs. Buckhalter is a 217-pound back who has 10 or more carries in a game just four times since 2004 (and two have come already this season). The 49ers can’t afford to let Buckhalter get decent chunks of yardage on first downs.

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