As the 49ers prepare to face the New York Jets this Sunday one of their key players on defense hasn't practiced thus-far after sustaining a knee injury in the game against the Minnesota Vikings. Of course we're talking about nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, or "Soap".
For a team that plays a 3-4 defense, this would seem like a major blow should Soap not be able to suit-up on Sunday, however I tend to think the loss will be mitigated due to the Jets' personnel groupings. I asked Pro Football Focus to give me an idea of how many backs, tight ends, and wide receivers the Jets like to line-up with most.
@tre9er 11 personnel on 27.9% of plays, with 12 personnel second on 14.9%— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 27, 2012
"11 personnel" means one running back, one tight end. That means there are three wide receivers on the field. Similarly, "12 personnel" means one back, two tight ends, which leaves two receivers on the field.
Due to these tendencies I'd expect the 49ers to play a fair amount of their Nickel defense on Sunday. As most of us know, Sopoaga comes off the field in Nickel as Justin Smith and Ray McDonald play defensive tackle with Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks playing defensive end.
The Packers and Lions both play multiple-receiver sets a lot as well. Those games saw the 49ers play primarily Nickel as a result. I think we continue to see this unless the Jets deviate from what they've been doing and line up with two or fewer receivers and/or a fullback.
Even if they do decide to go that route, the 49ers Nickel defense has proven to be stout against the run and the Jets have really struggled to run the ball consistently.
At any rate it seems that the team likely won't be in a hurry to rush Sopoaga on the field this week. This would also provide them another roster spot to activate the seemingly healthy Ted Ginn and Brandon Jacobs.