In related news, Correll Buckhalter is chomping at the bit for a crack at the soft under belly of the 49ers defense. Check out Bleeding Green Nation for round the clock updates on the Westbrook situation. Apparently he'll be getting an MRI on the ribs today.
This situation does not make me all that much more enthused about the upcoming matchup, given the 49ers struggles at times in stopping the run. Throw in Donovan McNabb and it's a tough matchup no matter what. If Westbrook can't go, Correll Buckhalter would get the start and he has been solid in limited action. In week 3 he rushed 10 times for 43 yards and in week 4 he rushed 16 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.
In regards to the rush defense, Mike Nolan answered a couple questions about it in his press conference today:
RE: Each of your opponents had success using a bigger running back, a 220-pound plus running back against you. What is it that there seeing? Are they seeing a weakness that they can kind of pound you guys and push you back and would you agree that that is a weakness?
Nolan: “I believe that people have been able to sustain the ball. Honest, they haven’t had any big necessarily runs. But they’ve been able to sustain and move the ball on us. Both teams, the big runner for New Orleans, when he was active in games, and they had injuries so they were able to put him up for the game, runs that exact same way whoever their playing of the thirty-one other teams other than New Orleans. New England’s running attack is the same running plays as they used against us as they used against thirty-one other opponents, we need to do a better job of stopping them. Obviously instead of them getting sometimes five and six [yards], stopping them at getting two and three yard range which is what you predominately strive for which is what we did earlier in the year. So it wasn’t as if they all of a sudden went with it. They ran the same offense. I was surprised that they actually, they didn’t have, with two weeks to prepare to prepare for us, have some more wrinkles in the game especially early when we were up. Felt good. They did their offense. They did it from start to finish. But what we got to do is get off of the field so we don’t have some of those drives.”
RE: Is stopping them in the two- and three-yard range like you said a function of the defensive line? Is that just the defensive lines?
Nolan: “No, it’s the front seven as well as the secondary players often. You bring another player, an extra man down in the box. It takes eleven guys to stop the run."
He's absolutely right in that it has been sustained rushes, as opposed to big runs. I think adjusting the big-sub defense would really allow them to shore up that 5-15 yard defense that has killed them so far. If Westbrook ends up missing the game, the big plus is taking him out of the passing game, where he's a deadly force.