San Francisco 49ers: 6 Role Players Who Must Perform Against the Packers
In what promises to be one of, if not the most promising encounter of Week One, the 49ers travel to Lambeau Field hoping to assert an early season dominance.
Many already view this fixture as the most likely NFC Championship game we’re likely to see in several months time. This weekend, that prediction will be influenced greatly.
The Green Bay Packers were a very substantial force to be reckoned with in the previous campaign and will undoubtedly be so again, but this matchup promises to expose any holes that may exist in both sides.
The home side head into this match as clear favourites to come out on top, and the 49ers will have a difficult time in ensuring Aaron Rodgers and his ilk do anything but build on 2011’s 15-1 record.
That being said, it’s far from impossible and they just need the right guys to show up on the day.
Here are those key figures.
WR: Randy Moss
Back in March, when it emerged that Randy Moss was coming out of retirement to sign a one-year deal with San Francisco, some were skeptical toward the move, labeling it as more of a gimmick than a genuine squad improvement.
Since then, the 35-year-old veteran has made significant strides in his comeback and it’s a statement of intent that the 49ers have listed Moss as a starter against Green Bay, according to the team’s depth chart.
The wide receiver had very little playing time in preseason, but Jim Harbaugh appears to have enough reason to put his faith in the journeyman.
Relegating Mario Manningham to the second wave isn’t a small feat and while the former New York Giant will certainly get his fair share of the ball, it’s Moss who handles a larger amount of the responsibility against the Packers.
In 14 career games against Green Bay, Moss has 1,273 receiving yards and 13 TDs, a tally he’ll be looking to add to this season.
RCB: Tarell Brown
It’s no secret that the Green Bay Packers have one of the most threatening offenses in the league, of which Greg Jennings is a massive catalyst.
For that reason, it’s important that Tarell Brown doesn’t take as long to settle into the season as he did in 2011.
The cornerback got off to a slow start but, just like many others in the 49ers squad, enjoyed a massively improved second half to the season.
Brown’s numbers have slowly improved as he has acclimated to the pressures of a starting role, and it’s vital that he covers Jennings at his playing best.
TE: Vernon Davis
Currently playing about as close to his prime as he’s going to get, Vernon Davis could prove to be a game-changer in this match-up.
The Packers aren’t impenetrable, even with their defensive picks in the 2012 draft, and Davis is very likely to be one of the keys to unlocking that defensive line.
That said, 2011 wasn’t Davis’ best and the tight end will be looking back at his 2009 form in a bid to recapture the days of old.
Although his blocking is sometimes useful, it’s in offense where the 28-year-old’s importance will lie against the Packers.
If Alex Smith can provide excellent ball, Davis will have an easy time in providing that vital extra avenue in attack.
The question remains whether or not Smith can consistently put up the necessary passes.
RT: Anthony Davis
From one Davis to another and Vernon’s namesake, Anthony, will be a huge factor in whether or not his teammate can play the kind of game he wants to.
Despite being just 22 years old, Anthony Davis has already played 32 games for the 49ers, starting in all of his side’s regular season fixtures since being drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
San Francisco’s hopes of getting the ball to Vernon Davis will rest on whether or not the younger Davis is able to stand up to the likes of Ryan Pickett and co.
Alternatively, the 49ers may opt for their tight end to take up his duties on the left side of offense, in which case the responsibility of providing that space will defer to Joe Staley.
QB: Alex Smith
It won’t be a surprise that Alex Smith is listed as a player who needs to have a big game against the Packers, as he’ll need to do so for at least 16 games this season.
The question has been posed as to whether or not Smith has the qualities of a Superbowl-winning quarterback, a fair question at that.
The Green Bay defense will be far from the most difficult challenge the player comes up against this time around, but it’s an early test of whether or not the No. 11 can go the whole nine yards.
San Francisco’s rushing strength has meant that Smith has had a cushion to fall back on in hard times, and that cushion is plushest because of one man in particular.
RB: Frank Gore
That man is of course Frank Gore.
The 49ers focused greatly on their passing game in the offseason, bringing in the likes of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J Jenkins.
That said, Gore dictates that one of their greatest strengths still lies in the running game.
The Packers ranked 26th in the league last season when it came to rushing yards allowed per carry (4.7), and are missing their leading tackler from 2011, Desmond Bishop.
Tackling was a major stumbling block for the Packers last season, and is something they’ll need to improve upon if they’re to stop an assault from Gore, who hates to come off the field.