Senior writer jclombardi sums up 49ers scouting report & wide receivers profile.
49ers scouting report: Run offense: The 49ers rank No. 31 in the NFL in scoring, so the loss of their best offensive player, halfback Frank Gore, to a season-ending hip injury Monday night is huge. Gore ranks second in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,305) and No. 11 in rushing (853 yards, 4.2 yards a carry). Gore’s primary replacement is Brian Westbrook. He showed his running talent as Gore’s replacement against Arizona by gaining 136 yards on 23 carries, but he won’t hold up physically under that kind of work load. Anthony Dixon will share carries and is averaging 3.0 yards on 24 rushes. Pass offense: QB Troy Smith replaced injured Alex Smith and has flashed intriguing skills, as he is an excellent athlete and natural leader. The 49ers are 3-1 in his four starts. OC Johnson uses Smith on rollouts and bootlegs as much as possible, and he’s calling conservative games to help protect a green player who had only two starts and threw but 48 passes coming into this season. Smith’s accuracy is shaky. Vernon Davis is an elite tight end (40 catches, 13.7-yard average) who can score from anywhere on the field. Michael Crabtree must be accounted for (35 catches, 13.4-yard average, five touchdowns). Run defense: The 49ers run 3-4 scheme and rank No. 11 in yards allowed and are tied for No. 10 in points. They have the best inside linebacker in Patrick Willis who plays tough between the tackles and is explosive enough to make plays sideline to sideline. A scout said, “They’re very active (in the front seven), they’re very strong. They play well together, they’ve got good team speed, they’re good on the edge, they don’t do things to beat themselves.” NT Franklin is on the small side but is a key player for a defense that ranks No. 8 in rushing yards allowed and No. 5 in yards allowed per carry. Pass defense: There’s no pass rusher offenses have to account, but the 49ers rank an OK No. 12 in sacks percentage. DL Justin Smith (five sacks) gets good pressure from the inside and Willis (five sacks) blitzes well up the middle. The 49ers have an experienced and solid pair of starting cornerbacks in Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer on a defense that ranks No. 16 in passing yards allowed and No. 19 in yards allowed per catch. Special teams: Kicker Nedney is having an excellent year. Punter Andy Lee is a boomer. Ted Ginn Jr. contributes next to nothing as a receiver but is an OK return man.
Getting their turn in Packers receiving line: Whether Donald Driver’s thigh injury is bothering him more than he’s letting on or whether the inevitable erosion of athletic skills has begun at age 35, the Green Bay Packers’ passing attack hasn’t missed a beat. Driver hasn’t been the same dynamic receiver who posted his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season last year, but No. 3 receiver James Jones and No. 4 Jordy Nelson have picked up the slack. In the five games since Driver initially hurt his thigh Oct. 17 against Miami, Jones has 20 receptions for 325 yards and two touchdowns, and Nelson has 21 catches for 203 yards and one touchdown. “I talked a lot in training camp about how our (Nos.) 3 and 4 would be 1s and 2s in most places,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “That’s a gift that we have, having guys like Jordy Nelson and James Jones.” It’s a gift that keeps giving. Rodgers’ confidence in the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Jones and the 6-3, 217-pound Nelson – and even in No. 5 Brett Swain – is one reason the Packers’ four- and five-receiver sets have been so productive.