The San Francisco 49ers head east to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which means the 49ers get a crack at what has been a very solid secondary. Darrelle Revis has bounced back in a strong way following his knee injury last season, and he is once again among the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Pro Football Focus has broken down his performances, and they have him giving up 0.52 yards per snap in coverage, and a reception every 16.6 coverage snaps. They have that as tops among cornerbacks.
Earlier today, David Neumann (a recent addition to the NN front page team!) put together a 49ers-Bucs preview with the help of some advanced stats. In his section on the 49ers offense vs. the Bucs defense, he said:
Much like last week, the 49ers are going to want to avoid the opposing team's top corner. After spending far too much time in zone coverage at the beginning of the season, it appears Darrelle Revis is finally being allowed to lock up the offense's top target. With how things have gone recently, I would have to assume that means he'll be most of his time shadowing Boldin.
Anquan Boldin has been the team's number one receiver, and remains so for now while Michael Crabtree gets back to 100 percent game shape. Crabtree has shown he can make a lot of his old plays, but for now, Boldin remains "the guy" out wide. I can see why we would see a lot of Revis vs. Boldin, but Crabtree could get his fair share of work.
According to PFF (courtesy of Jeff Deeney), since Crabtree's return, Boldin has run 40 percent of his pass routes out of the slot, while Crabtree has only run 17 percent of his pass routes out of the slot. This is important because Revis does not spend much time in the slot. While I think Boldin's physicality can help him with Revis, I have to think the 49ers will get Boldin into the slot to get him more optimal opportunities.
The 49ers will look to establish the ground game, but they will need to get something going through the air to put this thing away. Given the play of the Bucs secondary this season, I am fascinated by the potential of this matchup. The 49ers receivers didn't have huge performances against Richard Sherman, but they made their presence felt. Sherman can do some big things in coverage with his physical brand of football, but this week the 49ers face a corner in Darrelle Revis who has ALL the tricks in his bag. He doesn't just need to clutch and grab to do his job. It will be a tall task on Sunday.
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