Niners Live continues our unique style and perspective of the game, inside the game, this week with our pre-game article of the week: What Fans Should Expect from Jimmy Garoppolo vs. the Tennessee Titans.
Recapping Jimmy G’s performance last week vs. the Houston Texans:
Garoppolo completed 20 of 34 passes for 334 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception while posting a final QBR of 67.6 and a 92.2 RTG. Jimmy G completed 60.6 percent of his passes while dealing with pressure breathing down his neck in the form of pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney; all 6′ 5″, 270 lbs. of him. Garoppolo also netted 10.1 per pass play which was huge in the game.
Jimmy G will see pressure by committee this week vs. the Titans:
Last week vs. the Texans Jimmy G was sacked 2 times, but hit 9, (4 coming from Clowney). The Titans come into Levi’s Stadium boasting the 9th ranked defense overall; 22nd in pass defense (the 49ers will face for the 2nd week in a row); they are 5th at stopping the run (via ESPN.com).
The Titans’ defense has held offenses to a 34.7% conversion rate on third down. They run a 3-4 scheme and are led by defensive coordinator and Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau. The Titans last week sacked ex-49ers’ quarterback and current starting quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals’ Blaine Gabbert 8 times to go along with 8 QB hits. Gabbert was sacked by (7) different players ala… by committee approach. We’ll highlight the players to watch shortly.
Note to Jimmy G: Titans are a “very talented and physical” defense.
For the record, the Titans are (5th) in the NFL at sacking the quarterback with (37) sacks. Since you’re asking, the Texans were ranked (19th). The Titans have taken the ball away 16 times (10 int and 5 forced fumbles).
What will the Titans try to do against Jimmy G?
Jimmy G should anticipate more pressure (by committee) coming his way this week as aforementioned. First order of business, DC LeBeau will try and take away Jimmy G’s running game that features running back’s Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida like the Bears did, and the Texans tried to do. The Titans only give up 90 yards a game on the ground at 3.6 yards per rush.
The guys that will help lead the charge on stopping the running game are; 10-year veteran; ILB Wesley Woodyard, all 6′ 0″, 233 lbs. of him, to go with his 106 tackles (leads the team), 4 sacks, 4 pass breakups and a Pro Football Focus Run Grade of 87.0. And 4th-year ILB Avery Williamson, all 6′ 1″, 246 lbs. of him, to go with 70 tackles, ( for 3rd on the team), 2 sacks and a PFF Run Grade of 88.8.
Right tackle Trent Brown is questionable to play, and his potential replacements G/T Zane Beadles or Darrell Williams Jr. would be in line to start if Brown can’t go. But one thing is for sure, left tackle Joe Staley and center Dan Kilgore and the rest of his offensive linemates will be tested again this week by a plethora of Titan defenders that can bring pressure up the middle and from the edge.
Two of those versatile defenders were already mentioned in Woodyard and Williamson. The others are the veteran right defensive end, Jurrell Casey, all 6′ 1″, 305 lbs. of him, to go with his 46 tackles (5.0 sacks, 2 came against Gabbert) and a PFF overall grade of 88.8. run def 84.0 and 86.1 as a pass-rusher. And outside LB/Edge rusher (9-year pro) Brian Orakpo, all 6′ 4″, 257 lbs. of him, to go with his 35 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, (6.0 sacks, 4 sacks in the last 5 games) and a PFF overall grade of 84.4 and 81.9 as a pass-rusher.
Stats you have to know: For the second time in three games, the Titans defense tallied eight sacks in one game, tying for the third-highest total in franchise history. Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 26 and this past Sunday against the Cardinals.
Another veteran the Titans have in their depth department filling in for injured/questionable to play on Sunday; outside LB/Edge rusher Derrick Morgan, all 6′ 4″, 261 lbs. and his 7.5 sacks (leads the team), is veteran outside LB/Edge rusher Erik Walden. Titans head coach Mike Mularkey has been very high on 6′ 2″, 250 lb. Walden and his presence and production of 4 sacks (3 coming in the last 4 games).
Here’s Mularkey on Walden:
“He is our style of player,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “He sets the edge. He is a pain in the rear end to block. He puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. And he is a fun player to be around.
“He likes football, and he likes violence. And he is good for that position.”
How can Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense counter?
Not to sound like a broken record again, but, If it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it. Jimmy G needs head coach/offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to create a game plan specifically for the Titans (like he did the Bears and Texans) and keep from overwhelming him with his added verbiage and extensive play call sheet. Next thing for Jimmy G is to play your game once again and be you/do you, in terms of accuracy, good ball placement, mobility and a quick release to offset whatever rush comes your way by committee.
Utilize the short, quick, passing game that features the stand out studs from last week in WR’s; Marquise Goodwin , Garret Celek aka… Celek time, and FB/TE Kyle Juszczyk who combined for (11 catches, 237 yards receiving and 1 touchdown). And get WR Trent Taylor more involved this week in the passing game from the slot (player to keep an eye on).
Things Jimmy G should know: Keep your eyes wide open for the ball-hawking free safety of the Titans Kevin Byard, all 5′ 11″, 212 lbs. of him, and his 71 tackles (second on the team) and 6 interceptions (leads the team) to go with a PFF overall grade of 90.8 and 91.0 in coverage.
What’s the Tennessee Titans’ offensive game plan?
They will try and help their struggling quarterback Marcus Mariota,(who’s admitted he’s been hurting his team), by leaning on his running game a lot more this week. By making the 49ers’ defense play them honest by trying to establish their big bruising two-headed monster style run game (to set up play action) that features running back’s; DeMarco Murray, all 6′ 1″, 220 lbs. of him, and his 552 yards on 151 attempts at 3.7 per rush and 5 touchdowns. And Derrick Henry, all 6′ 3″, 247 lbs. of him, and his 649 yards (leads the team) on 133 attempts at 4.9 per rush and 5 touchdowns.
Important to note: Mariota recently suffered a minor knee injury against the Cardinals, but is expected to play. He’ll also have the services of former first-round pick LT Taylor Lewan (leads the team with 4 sacks surrendered) who should return back to practice on Thursday to protect his blindside. And RT Jack Conklin will be also called on to help protect Mariota and open holes for this running game.
The star of this Titans’ offense, Mr. “Swiss Army Knife” himself… is none other than former 49ers’ tight end, Delanie Walker, (all 63 catches and 718 yards which leads the team) who has earned a PFF overall grade of 86.5. Mariota will try and work Walker inside (against box safety Eric Reid and Will/Mike LB Reuben Foster). But Walker’s game isn’t limited to just the inside/middle of the field, he’ll also be flexed out wide against the likes of Ahkello Witherspoon who’s questionable to play (if he can’t play, look for CB Greg Mabin to get the start) and Dontae Johnson will man the other side. Johnson struggled greatly last week against Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The Titans receiving corps features tall receivers like veteran Eric Decker, 6′ 3″, 214 lbs., (40 catches), and Rishard Matthews, 6′ 0″, 217 lbs., (44 catches second on the team) and rookie Corey Davis, 6′ 3″, 209 lbs., and his 25 catches. They’ll try to use their size to their advantage; look for this group to play more physical against the 49ers’ secondary.
What’s the 49ers defensive game plan?
Expect 49ers’ defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to concentrate on stopping the run first and foremost (see running back’s Henry and Murray). Again, paging reigning defensive rookie of the month LB Reuben Foster, in the box safety Eric Reid, and Eraser free safety Adrian Colbert; their jobs will be to stop the running game and Walker from dominating or taking over this game. But they can’t do it alone, they’ll need help.
The 49ers’ defensive front and pass-rushers consisting of; Elvis Dumervil, Solomon Thomas, Sheldon Day, Cassius Marsh, DeForest Buckner, Aaron Lynch who played solid last week vs. the Texans and Earl Mitchell, to name a few, will be needed to control the line of scrimmage and apply pressure with extreme disruptive violence, the kind that knocked Tom Savage out the game last week.
Mariota is struggling and has thrown 14 interceptions on the year this season. The 49ers should send pressure and mix up coverages to force him to turn the ball over. The 49ers must also contain Mariota inside the pocket and not allow him to get outside the pocket and use his legs to change the outcome of this game (224 yards rushing by Mariota) ala…allocate a spy on him.
What to Expect from Jimmy G against the Titans:
Expect Jimmy G to be wearing a wristband again this week with a scaled-down version of the offense. Shanahan will not want to overwhelm him with the entire playbook. Look for his quick release/decisive throws (featuring short passing game and blitz beaters) to his playmakers as aforementioned and his ability to place the ball where only his receiver can get it. His poise and calm, cool and collected demeanor I fully expect to see yet again on display. Jimmy G’s mobility will be needed in this game, no doubt.
We could see some play action going deep to Goodwin against first-round pick (rookie) CB Adoree’ Jackson, or CB Logan Ryan (both have a solid PFF overall grade of 79) taking place if the 49ers can establish the run this week and provide good protection.
This is another winnable game playing at home at Levi’s Stadium. But they’ll have to build on their 26 point outburst against the Texans, especially in the red zone, and come away with touchdowns and not field goals. I can see Jimmy G having another productive day in the air 275-325 yards passing (if) he has protection…..
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course. Often imitated, but never duplicated.
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims .