Biggest Questions Facing San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 Matchup with Packers
The San Francisco 49ers are going to find out early in the season if they have any major issues, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
First, they'll try to stop, arguably, the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers who leads the Green Bay Packers. Fittingly, some of the following questions are about San Francisco's pass defense.
On offense, the Niners' biggest question marks are about the wide receiver corps. Specifically, will anybody consistently produce besides Anquan Boldin?
Click ahead for the biggest questions facing San Francisco entering Week 1.
How Will Eric Reid Hold Up?
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A rookie as the last line of defense? Aaron Rodgers must be licking his chops.
Safety Eric Reid held his own in the preseason. He made a few notable hits on ball-carriers. But he's never faced a passing game as explosive as Green Bay's.
Jermichael Finley isn't as explosive as the receivers, but the 6'5" tight end has the size and athleticism to hurt the San Francisco defense.
Expect the 49ers to keep things simple for Reid. They'll probably play a lot of two-deep defenses with Donte Whitner covering the other deep half of the field.
Regardless, Reid will be tested. Will he pass?
Will 49ers Get Pressure on Rodgers?
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In the five games after Justin Smith sustained an arm injury in Week 15 of last season, the 49ers accumulated just six sacks.
Smith appears to be healthy now, but the effects of aging may catch up to the 33-year-old sooner rather than later.
Even if Smith is back to his old self, the 49ers need more from their pass-rushers outside of Aldon Smith.
Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald combined for just nine sacks last year, 3.5 fewer than their 2011 total. They need to take advantage of the attention the "Smith Brothers" attract and pressure Aaron Rodgers.
Third-round pick Corey Lemonier has shown promise in the preseason. He could sub in on obvious passing downs and provide a boost to the pass rush.
If the Niners don't disrupt Rodgers' comfortability and timing, Eric Reid and the secondary could be in for a long day.
Is Nnamdi Asomugha Back?
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About a week ago, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that Asomugha is the No. 3 cornerback. Against a pass-happy team like the Packers, he'll play a majority of the defensive snaps.
Asomugha is coming off two terrible seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Niners fans are hoping he was simply misused in Philly and will return to the form he displayed while a member of the Oakland Raiders.
We'll get a good look at how much Asomugha has left in the tank on Sunday. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones will present a challenge for all of San Franciso's cornerbacks.
Asomugha could play himself into a top-two CB spot or get moved down the depth chart based on his performance. He's truly a wild card.
After Boldin, Which SF Receivers Will Contribute?
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Between Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton, Marlon Moore and Jon Baldwin, somebody is going to have to make a big catch or two for the 49ers to beat the Packers.
The quartet has combined for just 88 catches in eight regular seasons.
Patton, a rookie out of Louisiana Tech, caught a touchdown pass in each of the two preseason games in which he played.
Williams had two catches for 60 yards in Colin Kaepernick's first career start against the Chicago Bears last year. He tore his ACL in San Francisco's next game, and although he's been practicing, he did not play in any of the Niners' preseason games.
Baldwin was acquired by the 49ers on Aug. 19. Who knows how comfortable the staff is with a player who has only been on the team for two weeks?
Moore had just six catches in 14 games with the Miami Dolphins last year, though he has been a steady contributor during the preseason.
Every player on this list figures to see the field at some point early in the season (it's anyone's guess whether recently acquired WR Chris Harper, a signing reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, will suit up in Week 1).
With Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham out for at least the first six weeks of the season, these wide receivers have a golden opportunity to make a name for themselves, though it won't be easy beating talented cornerbacks Sam Shields and Casey Hayward.
How Will Kaepernick Play?
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Nobody should expect Colin Kaepernick to repeat his 263-yard-passing, 181-yard-rushing performance from last year's playoff win against the Packers.
But NFL fans have big-time expectations for the third-year quarterback, and they'll be watching closely to see if and how his playing style has changed.
Will he run (in designed plays and otherwise) as much as he did in last year's postseason? Will he throw the ball with more touch? Will he play with poise under pressure, or will he show signs of vulnerability?
After San Francisco's heartbreaking Super Bowl loss, pundits will be looking for any sign to say, "He hasn't gotten over the loss in the big game," or "he doesn't have what it takes under pressure."
Kaepernick could keep those critics in the rearview mirror with a dominant performance in Week 1.