EDITOR'S NOTE - Quick headups, I'm leaving for the airport in a few minutes for a wedding back east in Massachusetts and won't be returning until Sunday night. I've got the open thread ready to go up on Sunday morning and the plan is to post it when I can use a computer at my hotel Sunday morning or wireless access at JFK (I'm connecting through NYC) later in the morning. If you do NOT see an open thread by 11:00am pacific time/2:00pm eastern time, someone please create a diary for the open thread. I'm TiVoing the game so I'll be able to watch it when I get back and have some sort of recap up by Sunday night or Monday morning. Hope everyone has a good weekend, Go Cal, Go Oregon (beat USC), Go Rockies and GO NINERS!!!
Up to this point I've only briefly discussed Reggie Bush and the challenge he presents to our defense. I've been meaning to discuss this in a little more detail and I was inspired to do so today by an article at sf49ers.com discussing how the 49ers will need to cover Reggie Bush and Eric Johnson.
Last season, Reggie Bush rolled into Week 13 with a decent enough rookie season, but nothing spectacular, for particular for this particular Heisman-winner. And then Week 13, the 49ers arrived in New Orleans and Reggie Bush had a break out performance: 168 totals yards and 4 touchdowns. He was a receiving and scoring threat and the 49ers couldn't seem to stop him. So how does that affect things now?
A year ago, Reggie Bush was the receiving and big-play threat, while Deuce McCallister was the smash-mouthed running back earning the hard yards. Now, Deuce is done for the year and Reggie Bush is "complimented" by Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas. Last season, Bush had two games of more than 15 carries, something he has done the last three games. He's still a receiving threat, but I wonder if the extra rushing workload is taking a toll on him? At USC he had LenDale White getting the tough yards between the tackles, while Bush was the home-run threat and it worked to perfection, as it did for New Orleans last year. Can Reggie Bush handle the full load?
Whether Bush can handle a full complement of carries, he still can make plays as a receiver. The question for the 49ers becomes who will cover him? While anything can happen, I'm going to assume Clements, Harris and Spencer take care of business and keep Colston, Henderson and Moore in check. That article I linked to above mentions that Michael Lewis often gets the job of covering tight ends. If he is the guy covering Eric Johnson, that leaves what I would assume would be a platoon to handle Bush.
An advantage to having good cover-corners is that your safeties are freed up and don't need to be rolled over to support the cornerbacks. Do you use Mark Roman as a spy on Bush? Back in the day, Julian Peterson would have been assigned Bush and that would be that. Now, I'm guessing different players might have different assignments in regards to Bush. Is it possible we see a zone coverage against him, where some combination of our linebackers handle him up close, but let Roman take over coverage after 10 yards? I'm very curious to see how Nolan and the defense decide to play Bush. The talent level on our defense is obviously different and the Saints have not been nearly as explosive, so I'd like to think we will see a different result. The sf49ers.com article had an interesting line that leads to the matchup I can't wait to see:
Is anybody else excited to see Bush try and cut around the corner and see Patrick Willis roar across and bring him down for a loss? This will be Willis's biggest test so far in terms of his speed. He's faced quality running backs and taken them down as they tried to turn the corner. However, Bush is probably the fastest running back he's faced so far, and probably will face all year. I eagerly await the outcome of that little matchup.
So what do you guys think the 49ers do to contain Bush?