Niners Nation #Channel49 Twitter Q&A Mailbag, Wk 4: 49ers vs Rams, Jon Baldwin, NaVorro Bowman & More

I like this pic because Chris Givens looks terrified. Wouldn't you be? - Dilip Vishwanat

On Friday, Trevor Woods and I hosted our weekly Twitter Q&A session with expected results. 49ers fans got together and discussed a great win, some injury concerns and some stellar play by NaVorro Bowman. I have to admit, it's much more fun after a win.

It was a good win for the 49ers. If you'd have told me we'd be 2-2 after Week 4 with a mini-bye week coming up I would not have complained. We've had a brutal early schedule that will ease up in coming weeks. We should be able to pad the win column and work out some of these kinks. I must say, life is much better following a win.

There were a lot of good questions this week. I'll get right in and separate them by topic. Warning: I may have gone overboard.

Dominant Defense

One aspect of the 49ers 35-11 domination of the Rams was the way various backups stepped up on defense. The Rams were bad on offense, but it didn't seem like the Niners missed a beat, despite missing Patrick Willis and Nnamdi Asomugha, and Ian Williams, out with a season-ending injury since Week 2, from their rotation.

Tramaine Brock filled in as the nickel cornerback for Nnamdi and did a splendid job. He would have gotten beat on the corner route to Austin Pettis for a touchdown early in the game had Sam Bradford's throw been on target. But if ifs and buts were raisins and nuts, we'd all have a bowl of granola. Right? Other than that, he looked good, even deflecting the long ball that Donte Whitner intercepted.

Has he done enough to replace Nnamdi? I'm not sure. I was never convinced that Nnamdi would make the team, and feel that the Chris Culliver injury is the reason he's still here. This will be hotly debated over the next week, but I'd say yes, give Brock the nod.

NaVorro Bowman apparently told Trent Baalke he was going to get him the win. He nearly did singlehandedly. He was an absolute monster on Thursday night. There were more blitzes, middle linebacker and cornerback, and it went a long way in creating pressure on Bradford. The Rams QB was never settled in this game and had a hard time making throws. We could have had 4 interceptions had we held on to the ball. I loved what I saw scheme-wise and would hope that they look to replicate this when possible. It should be noted that the Rams RBs were atrocious at picking up blitzes.

Corey Lemonier was great in this one. He didn't register a sack (the glory stat) but he tipped a ball, had tons of pressure and even had a tackle for a loss in the run game if I remember correctly. This was his debut as a heavy rotational player and he couldn't have played better. The Dan Skuta - Lemon-Yea platoon is what we've got to work with and after one week, it looks like it should work. Again, note that the Rams offense was in disarray. How much of that had to do with the 49ers and how much of it was the Rams? Let's see how this works out against a solid O. The schedule gets soft soon enough, and they should be able to see us through until Aldon Smith is able to re-join the team, clean and sober (please....).

I tabbed Glenn Dorsey as my under-the-radar defensive player in one of the preseason #Channel49 sessions. I was disappointed when he lost the starting job to Ian Williams. Now that Williams is hurt, Dorsey has every opportunity to make the impact we anticipated. He's had two sacks in the first four games, an added bonus, and has been good against the run. He was expected to add depth and versatility to the defensive line and he's done just that. He's an affordable veteran, former first-rounder, just the type of free agent signing Baalke has excelled at making. Another great deal.

Wide Receiver

This was the most common question of the day. Jon Baldwin did not do much to impress against the Rams. This is more of an indictment on Kyle Williams than a compliment for Baldwin. Williams has had 4 weeks to seize the No. 2 receiver role and has shown little. He was losing snaps to Quinton Patton before the rookie suffered his fractured foot. He proceeded to lose snaps to Baldwin after that. Baldwin is an excellent run-blocker who has an upside, something I don't think we'd say about Kyle at this point. KW seems destined to be a No. 4 WR / PR. Unfortunately, due to injuries he's moved up the depth chart. I'd definitely like to see more of Baldwin and less of Williams going forward.

It would appear that he could be our No. 2 receiver going forward. He played the third most snaps of any receiver against the Rams. Patton was in the process of unseating Kyle Williams and Baldwin was unspectacular, but showed as much as Williams has. He's got the higher upside and is a better blocker. He's No. 3 at the minimum. We should also remember that Williams was listed as questionable going into the game. How much did that injury hamper him and his snap counts? We'll have a full week of this debate, you can be sure of that.

Another frequently asked question in one form or another. Will the 49ers trade for (or sign) another WR. I really don't think so. Baalke would want to keep the draft capital going into the vaunted 2014 draft. With Manningham expected back soon and a weak schedule coming up, I'd expect to see Baldwin get more playing time and Vance McDonald featured more prominently in the passing game before we trade for a wide receiver. One thing we do know, Baalke is a ninja. So if he trades a conditional 2015 pick for Dez Bryant, I wouldn't be surprised.

With Quinton Patton expected to miss some significant time with a foot fracture and Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree still out injured, the 49ers need some help at wide receiver. I doubt they'll put Patton on IR if he's expected back in 8 weeks. They have already used the injured / designated to return tag on Nick Moody and it might have been ideal for Patton. Whether they will make a move may depend on how highly they value Baldwin. They may look to sign a FA for a temporary fix and Collie could make sense. We may be just as likely to see Lavelle Hawkins re-signed or Chuck Jacobs promoted. For whatever reason, it didn't seem as though the front office and coaching staff were that high on Collie.

There has really been little to no news regarding Mario Manningham's recovery. During the offseason there were questions as to whether or not he'd be ready to start the season. This makes me think he was close to being ready. Or it could have all been media speculation. Either way, there have been no signs to indicate that he won't be ready to play in Week 7, his earliest possible return date. One thing is certain, a fully healthy Manningham would make me feel a lot better about our wide receiver corps.

Kaepernick

Yes, to both questions. People forget that Colin Kaepernick was making his 14th start of his career. He'd never lost two games in a row. He hadn't played that poorly before. This was a solid, if not great, performance from Kaepernick. The defense has been doing it's job, even playing well in the two losses before tiring late. The offense, however, needed a solid showing and they got it. There were some things I'd like to see improved. The number of 3 & outs were unsettling. Even getting one first down and 15 yards can go a long way toward winning the time of possession and field position battles. Kaepernick still needs to improve his reads and decision making. It didn't hurt us against the Rams, but may haunt us against top-tier foes.

Teams have been focused on stopping Kaepernick from running and its working. I think a large part of that has been his poor play. If he plays like he did against the Seahawks and Colts, tentatively and poorly, teams are going to dare him to throw it. He needs to have a couple more performances were he torches the defense through the air and the runs will start opening up. I do think the coaches have been holding him back a little, wanting to see him show a bit more poise before cutting him loose. They know we're not going to win a Super Bowl with him performing as the 20th best QB in the league.

We should also keep in mind how scarcely Kaepernick played in preseason. These first four games have almost substituted for actual preseason playing time. But, the big plays will come. I can't wait for the first big run.

Other Stuff

I'm not sure that the 49ers wanted to go away from the ground game. Against Green Bay, we had to win a shootout and we did it on the strength of Kaepernick's arm. Then against Seattle and Indy, I think Roman panicked once we fell behind. We had no success running on the Seahawks so abandoning the run was somewhat understandable. But after gouging the Colts on the ground early, we were all confused by the lack of carries for Frank Gore once we were down by a score. I think we need to remember that sometimes Greg Roman just calls bad games.

We will see the schedule get a lot easier following the Texans game. 6 of the following 7 games are against opponents who did not make the playoffs, with the one exception being 0-3 Washington. These are games we should win. We should be leading early and I'd expect the ground game and a 2011-style, slow strangulation of our weaker opponents to feature prominently during that stretch. I also expect a win streak.

Good, tough question. Kassim Osgood, Chris Harper and Owen Marecic were the last players signed on offense. One of them can expect to be handed their walking papers when Manningham returns and I'd say Osgood is the odd man out. He is a special teamer but our ST unit has been fine and has a number of players who's sole job is on ST. Marecic is a Harbaugh favorite and Harper was signed and has a massive upside, but both play a sort of H-back role, so there is some overlap. You can make a case why any one of the three would be cut.

Another name we're expecting to hear from is Eric Wright. I don't know who they would clear out to put him on the roster. Could it be Nnamdi if Brock claims his spot as No. 3 CB? On the defensive line, Cornelius "Tank" Carradine is expected to contribute at some point. Tony Jerrod-Eddie is the weak link on the line and would probably see his job taken by the 2nd-rounder.

The one thing to keep in mind is that injury will just as likely be a factor in these decisions. There's a lot of football between now and decision time and anyone could get injured. In Manningham's case, it could be determined that Patton will be too slow to heal and gets moved to the IR to make the space. Anything can happen between now and then, making it near impossible to predict.

Vance McDonald looked really good blocking last night. There were quite a few big runs where he played a key part. This was the area we wanted to see improvement in from the rookie tight end. It should be noted that everyone looked good blocking against the Rams on Thursday night, but I was very impressed with Vance. Now I want to see him explode in the passing game. Given our struggles at wide receiver, having a second tight end to terrorize opposing coverages would go a long way to mitigating that most pressing of issues.

Ah, the 2012 formula for success. Don't score in the first quarter. Let the other team sustain some long drives on your defense without giving up too many points. Then go, "holy crap" and cram down on the accelerator to pull away from a weaker team. This felt exactly like the last game of last season against the Cardinals. Our slow starts last year were an achilles heel and this hasn't appeared to have changed. We have yet to identify what exactly is the cause. We can only hope that this gets addressed before it costs us another chance at a Lombardi Trophy.

I really do expect us to be 6-2 at that point. The toughest games in that stretch are at home against a Houston team I think we match up well against and on the road at Tennessee, the week before we fly out to London. If we lost one of those two, I would not be devastated. Mildly disappointed, yes. I think this is where the 49ers get to make a good run and get healthy and focused for the the final 6 games or so that will go a long way toward deciding where we'll be seeded in the NFC playoffs. If we don't win the NFC West and the road to the Super Bowl runs through Seattle, it doesn't matter to me where we finish, so long as we're in.

A lot of us have been wanting to see more screens. It would appear that Roman simply does not like to call them. I've been excited by the idea of LaMichael James getting more touches in open space. Our downfield blocking by our skill players is excellent and has been a prominent part of our run game for some time. It would make sense to see it applied to the passing game. Baldwin and Anquan Boldin lined up on the same side with a few offensive lineman barrelling out on a cleverly disguised screen could do some serious damage.

And, finally...this is just absolutely awesome. I don't know if Ronnie knew what he was doing in retweeting long-time #Channel49 participant Kaleo, but I'll pretend he wanted in on the #Ch49 action. Lott was always my favorite player growing up. Follow him if you haven't.

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