How the 49ers’ defense matches up against 2013 opponents

Over the past two seasons, the 49ers’ defense has not played its best against offenses with good running backs and quick slot receivers. Also, the 49ers’ defense has struggled at times against receiving tight ends, big wide receivers and deep threats.

Let’s go through the 49ers’ 2013 schedule and see which of the 49ers opponents has the personnel to attack the 49ers’ defense where it’s somewhat vulnerable.


Week 1: vs. Green Bay

Running back: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, James Starks, Randall Cobb

Quick slot receiver: Randall Cobb, Johnathan Franklin

Big receiver: Jordy Nelson

Tight end: Jermichael Finley

Deep threat: Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones

Analysis: The Packers drafted the two best running backs in the draft, so they should have a balanced attack this year. Green Bay likes to line up Nelson at flanker and Jones at split end, but against the 49ers they might switch and put Nelson at split end. That way, he can match up against Tarell Brown, who is five inches shorter than Nelson.


Week 2: @ Seattle

Running back: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Percy Harvin

Quick slot receiver: Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Chris Harper

Big receiver: Sidney Rice

Tight end: Zach Miller

Deep threat: Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin

Analysis: Marshawn Lynch can run on the 49ers’ defense and Percy Harvin will be tough to cover, especially when Russell Wilson is extending plays behind the line of scrimmage.


Week 3 vs. Indianapolis

Running back: Donald Brown, Vick Ballard, T.Y. Hilton

Quick slot receiver: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton

Big receiver: Darrius Heyward-Bey

Tight end: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen

Deep threat: T.Y. Hilton

Analysis: The Colts don’t have a great running attack, but it’s respectable. Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton will be tough for the 49ers’ cornerbacks to handle.


Week 4: @ St. Louis

Running back: Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy, Tavon Austin

Quick slot receiver: Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis

Big receiver: Brian Quick

Tight end: Jared Cook

Deep threat: Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin

Analysis: The Rams don’t have a proven power rusher now that Steven Jackson is gone, so they probably will use 11 personnel almost exclusively. The Rams have three quick running backs who could be effective in that formation – Richardson, Pead and Austin. The Rams also have four good slot receivers and three deep threats.


Week 5: vs. Houston

Running back: Arian Foster, Ben Tate

Quick slot receiver: Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins

Big receiver: Andre Johnson

Tight end: Owen Daniels

Deep threat: Andre Johnson

Analysis: The Texans have one of the best running back duos in the NFL. If they set up play action, QB Matt Schaub could move the ball on the 49ers like Matt Ryan did in the first half of the NFC Championship game. The 49ers’ cornerbacks do not matchup well with Johnson and Hopkins.


Week 6: vs. Arizona

Running back: Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor

Quick slot receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Ryan Swope

Big receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd

Tight end: Rob Housler

Deep threat: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd

Analysis: Stepfan Taylor is a tough running back who played like Marshawn Lynch at times in college. If Taylor plays well and the offensive line holds up, the 49ers could have a tough time covering Fitzgerald. Ryan Swope and Andre Roberts are dangerous in the slot, and Michael Floyd beat Chris Culliver for 8 catches, 166 yards and a touchdown in Week 17.


Week 7: @ Tennessee

Running back: Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene

Quick slot receiver: Nate Washington, Kendall Wright

Big receiver: Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter

Tight end: Delanie Walker

Deep threat: Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright

Analysis: Chris Johnson is a dangerous running back, but he’s a finesse back, and the 49ers have had more trouble with powerful backs. On the other hand, Washington is a quality slot receiver, and Kenny Britt and Justin Hunter are the type of big deep threats that do well against the 49ers.


Week 8: @ Jacksonville

Running back: Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Forsett, Denard Robinson

Quick slot receiver: Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders, Denard Robinson, Justin Blackmon

Big receiver: Justin Blackmon

Tight end: Marcedes Lewis

Deep threat: None

Analysis: Jones-Drew still is an elite rusher, and Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson have the talent to become excellent slot receivers. Justin Blackmon also is a good possession receiver who can line up in the slot and convert third downs.


Week 9: Bye


Week 10: vs. Carolina

Running back: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Kenjon Barner

Quick slot receiver: Brandon LaFell

Big receiver: Brandon LaFell, Kenjon Barner

Tight end: Greg Olsen

Deep threat: Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon

Analysis: The Panthers had the ninth-best rushing attack last season, and it should improve this season as Cam Newton gets more experienced running the Pistol. The addition of Barner won’t hurt, either. Hixon dominated Chris Culliver the last time they faced each other – Week 6 last season.


Week 11: @ New Orleans

Running back: Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles

Quick slot receiver: Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Darren Sproles

Big receiver: Marques Colston

Tight end: Jimmy Graham

Deep threat: Kenny Stills

Analysis: The 49ers have handled the Saints’ runners well in the past. Graham and Sproles always are dangerous, especially when Sean Payton is drawing up and calling plays for them. Kenny Stills could be the most talented deep threat the Saints have had in the Drew-Brees era.


Week 12: @ Washington

Running back: Alfred Morris, Evan Royster, Roy Helu

Quick slot receiver: Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon

Big receiver: Leonard Hankerson

Tight end: Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed

Deep threat: Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson

Analysis: The Redskins had the best rushing attack in the NFL last season. It was very difficult to make the Redskins’ offense one-dimensional. They used play action better than most offenses.


Week 13: vs. St. Louis (see Week 4)


Week 14: vs. Seattle (see Week 2)


Week 15: @ Tampa Bay

Running back: Doug Martin, Mike James

Quick slot receiver: Mike Williams, Tiquan Underwood

Big receiver: Vincent Jackson

Tight end: None

Deep threat: Vincent Jackson

Analysis: Doug Martin became one of the best running backs in the NFL as a rookie last season. Split end Vincent Jackson is 6-5, 241 pounds and he averaged 19.2 yards per catch last season. Tarell Brown is seven inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than Jackson.


Week 16: vs. Atlanta

Running back: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers

Quick slot receiver: Roddy White, Harry Douglas

Big receiver: Julio Jones

Tight end: Tony Gonzalez

Deep threat: Julio Jones

Analysis: No running back gives the 49ers’ defense more trouble than Jackson, and no receiver gives Tarell Brown more problems than Jones.


Week 17: @ Arizona (see Week 6)


The 49ers’ offense could outscore all of their opponents this season. That’s a possibility. But how many of the 49ers’ opponents can score more than 20 points against the 49ers’ defense?

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