5 San Francisco 49ers Who Need To Step Up in Week Two

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2016

5 San Francisco 49ers Who Need To Step Up in Week Two

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    Don't be fooled by the San Francisco 49ers 33-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks. They still have a lot of things to improve on heading into next week's matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

    Seattle didn't have the "look" of a defending division champion, instead they played like one of the worst teams in the conference. Meanwhile, San Francisco did what they needed to win but not much more.

    If the 49ers offensive game plan and execution against Dallas is the same as last week they will get throttled by a more talented Cowboys's team. I do think that Coach Harbaugh understands this and will make adjustments accordingly.

    Now it is up to the players to execute the game plan.

    Make no mistake about it, this is an extremely important game for San Francisco. They have a chance at going 2-0 to start the season, which would be a huge advantage in the NFC West. Both Seattle and St. Louis are looking at likely 0-2 starts with their difficult Week 2 matchups. So, a 2-0 start could do wonders for the 49ers confidence in terms of winning the division.

    While, certain 49ers players looked real good in the win against Seattle, there were some that really need to pick up their game if San Francisco has a shot at beating the "hated" Dallas Cowboys.

    Today, I will take a look at five 49ers that need to step up this week.  

5. Donte Whitner Needs To Match Week 1 Performance

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    Donte Whitner isn't shying away from these matchups against some of the league's top tight ends, rather he is relishing in it. As someone who loves to watch good defenses play, this couldn't make me happier.

    Last week, Whitner did a number on Zach Miller of the Seattle Seahawks. The Pro Bowl tight end was held to just two receptions and became a non-factor as the game progressed. 

    Everyone questioned Whitner's ability to defend the pass but that wasn't an issue last Sunday. Instead, he played it real well and looked solid.

    This week Whitner will be going up against Tony Romo's favorite target, Jason Witten, who is an absolute beast. If the strong safety can take the Cowboys tight end out of the game it will cause major issues for the fluidity of Dallas's offense. If not, it will give Romo confidence to go up the middle against a stout San Francisco front seven. 

    I have no doubt that Whitner is up for the task. All he needs to do is duplicate that Week 1 performance and the 49ers defense will be in good shape against Dallas.

4. Braylon Edwards Needs To Take Advantage of the Cowboys Weak Secondary

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    Braylon Edwards did have some impact in his first regular-season game as a San Francisco 49er. He caused a pass interference penalty against Brandon Browning, which set the 49ers up at first-and-goal.

    That said, his impact wasn't as great as many of us would imagine. A lot of this had to do with a conservative game plan. As it is, Edwards was targeted five times and came away with just 27 receiving yards.

    At some point in the near future the former Pro Bowl receiver is going to break loose for a 100-plus yards and a couple scores. What better time to have that happen against a depleted Cowboys' secondary?

    I highly doubt that Terence Newman will be able to go and Mike Jenkins got beat up a great deal physically against the New York Jets.

    There remains a strong possibility that neither will be able to go against San Francisco, which would cause major matchup problems on the outside for Dallas.

    The Cowboys nickelback, Orlando Scandrick is also going to miss the game.

    There is no doubt in my mind that San Francisco will have a major advantage on the outside with Edwards, Crabtree and Morgan. 

    Now it is time for the game plan to reflect this advantage and open up the offense. 

3. Joe Staley Needs To Start Acting Like a Leader on the Offensive Line

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    Staley was playing in his first regular season game since October of last year and he didn't look real bad out there on Sunday. He actually held up well against an aggressive Seattle pass rush.

    But the former first-round pick did give up a couple pressures and had a costly penalty that set San Francisco back to third-and-long. Staley really needs to up his game this week against the Dallas Cowboys in order for Alex Smith to have the necessary protection to succeed.

    Rob Ryan will be moving DeMarcus Ware around a lot like he did against the New York Jets last week. You will see the All-Pro linebacker lined up both on the right and left sides of their 3-4 defense. Besides this, Staley will have to account for both Marcus Spears and Anthony Spencer on the right side. 

    It is going to be a difficult task but San Francisco cannot succeed on offense if they have to continually give help to their right tackle. This disables the 49ers ability to schematically confuse the Cowboys defense and plays right into Ryan's game plan. 

    If Joe Staley can hold his own on the right side, San Francisco should be able to open it up against a lackluster Dallas Cowboys secondary. 

2. Tarell Brown Needs To Play Stronger Against the Cowboys Receivers

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    It isn't that Tarell Brown played bad against the Seattle Seahawks. Rather, he had a pretty solid all-around game. He was able to breakup multiple passes and stayed with Seattle's receivers real well.

    My issue sits with the fact that Brown played soft coverage against the Seahawks. Some of that had to do with the scheme going up against a pretty bad offense but some of that also had to do with the 49ers' lack of confidence in Brown.

    This week he is going to get a huge test against the Cowboys receiving tandem of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. I fully expect Vic Fangio to move Carlos Rogers around in order to halt one of the two receivers. However, Rogers (who only had one pass attempt completed against him) cannot be in two places at once.

    Shawntae Spencer may play this week against Dallas, which could help. He has been extremely solid against physical receivers (see: Larry Fitzgerald), but I don't think San Francisco can count on Spencer to be an x-factor after missing the entire preseason.

    So, a lot of the coverage onus will be placed on the shoulders of Tarell Brown. He needs to play closer to the line of scrimmage and bump the receivers off their routes. It won't work if Brown is playing five-six yards off the receiver. If that happens, Tony Romo will pick him apart all day long.

    That said, a strong pass rush makes your secondary look a lot better and San Francisco promises to put  a lot of pressure on Romo Sunday. 

1. Frank Gore Needs to Have a Frank Gore Type of Day

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    Well, who would have thought that Frank Gore, not Alex Smith, would top this list? Not me. However, Gore struggled a great deal against a weak Seattle Seahawks rush defense. 

    The former Pro Bowl running back wasn't able to get started and didn't look himself in week one. Instead, he turned away from open holes, didn't break tackles and seemed to lack the vision that has made him one of the most productive running backs over the last half decade.

    San Francisco also utilized Kendall Hunter in obvious passing situations, which might mean they have more confidence in the rookie back pass protecting than they have in Gore.

    While, it might appear that way I really doubt it. Frank Gore has proven himself to be one of the better pass protecting running backs in the entire league.

    It just seemed that No. 21 was having an off-day against the Seattle Seahawks, a team that he had shredded up in the past.

    Still, he ran the ball over 20 times, a number that I have continually viewed as key to San Francisco's success. The 49ers are now 22-5 when Frank Gore rushes the ball at least 20 times.

    Frank Gore has a history of rebounding from tough games and I fully expect him to do so against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. While, Jim Harbaugh may open up the playbook he will not forget about Frank Gore. 

    As history proves, if Frank Gore runs the ball 20 times the 49ers will probably win. In fact, statistics show they win 95 percent of the time when he has that many carries at home (14-1).