The 49ers play the Jets Sunday at the Meadowlands. In the meantime, I’ll break down one key matchup per day.
Wide receivers Santonio Holmes (5-11, 192 pounds) and Jeremy Kerley (5-9, 188 pounds) vs. the 49ers defensive backs.
The 49ers defense, as great as it is, does not match up well against big tight ends or small, explosive receivers who can line up all over the formation – in the slot, out wide and in the backfield.
The Jets don’t have any tight ends to worry about, but they do have two explosive little receivers – Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley.
Holmes is Mark Sanchez’s favorite target, especially on third down. Holmes has just as many first-down catches on third down as Michael Crabtree – 6. Only three receivers in the NFL have 7.
Both Holmes and Kerley are good runners, too. Each receiver has more than 80 yards YAC so far this season.
Holmes lines up at split end, flanker and the slot. In three-wide-receiver formations, I’m guessing he’ll line up mostly at flanker and face Chris Culliver, who seems to cover bigger receivers better than the smaller ones.
Kerley will line up mostly in the slot. Sometimes he’ll even motion to the backfield like a running back.
He’ll be the Jets’ X-factor against the Niners.
The Jets will probably try to use him against the Niners like the Vikings used Percy Harvin and the Packers used Randall Cobb – a possession receiver, almost a running back, who catches passes out of the backfield, across the middle and down the sidelines for the occasional big play.
In four-wide-receiver sets, Kerley will face Perrish Cox, the Niners’ second nickel back, or slot cornerback. Cox struggled majorly against Cobb in Week 1. Cox will have his hands full against Kerley this week.