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Interesting Tidbits

This is more or less a link dump, but I wanted to throw out some extended thoughts on just a couple of articles.

The big storyline (aside from Trent Dilfer's burning desire for revenge against the Ravens) is the first meeting of Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis. It's certainly the most obvious story. Patrick Willis is most often compared to Ray Lewis. Mike Singletary and Mike Nolan both worked with Lewis in Baltimore. Willis is showing flashes of Ray Lewis play making ability. If Willis becomes anything resembling Ray Lewis, we'll have a Hall of Fame linebacker, hopefully for a very long time. Nolan was distinguishing the two of them:

"I don't think there are any similarities other than their number," Nolan said Friday as the 49ers wrapped up preparations for the game. "Ray is very passionate. Patrick is passionate but Patrick's personality is different. Patrick's not as extroverted."

Lewis fairly defines extroverted for the way he demands, and gets, attention. As for Willis...

"Quiet but deadly," the rookie said. "Boom! That's just me."

The best line from Willis definitely shows his determination to be a great player:
"I've done nothing yet. I haven't won no MVP, I haven't won a Super Bowl. The style we have, the knack for the ball, that's where the comparisons come in. We both have chances to be around the ball."
We also have an Alex Smith update:
If the torn ligaments in his right shoulder scar up as expected and the pain subsides, Alex Smith said he would like to begin throwing the football and perhaps practice the week of the New York Giants' game on Oct. 21, following the 49ers' bye week.
I would assume that would put him in line to be back for the Saints game, assuming the arm strength is back where he would like. While Smith is highly motivated to get back on the field, he realizes he can't push things too quickly. I'd rather he miss an extra game than come back and re-aggravate the injury.

Finally, I thought I'd throw out some comments from the Scouts Inc. scouting report (Insider article):

First off, the matchup to watch, which is one we'll ALL be checking out.

San Francisco QB Trent Dilfer vs. Baltimore's blitz pressure The coaches in Baltimore know Dilfer well. After all, he did lead a Brian Billick-coached team to a Super Bowl title. Dilfer is a "shell" of that QB based upon how he played last week. He was inaccurate, immobile and for a veteran, looked completely unprepared to play. He knows he will get the start this week, which should help his preparation, but it is tough to prepare for the blitz pressure he will see this week.

Look for Baltimore to run multiple-zone dogs, stunts, X-blitzes and everything they can throw at him. The 49ers do not have threats in the passing game, so look for the Ravens to play more press-coverage and blitz. The Ravens will also fake the blitz and back off to get Dilfer to force the ball into zones. Look for the Ravens to show a lot of movement and pre-snap adjustments to keep this 49ers offense out of synch.

Will the 49ers be able to open up their pass offense this week with veteran Trent Dilfer at QB?

The 49ers enter this week with the 32nd ranked offense and pass offense in the NFL. QB Alex Smith (shoulder) will be out this week. He was injured early in the game last week and Dilfer came in and could not get anything going either. Dilfer has less arm strength than Smith, which does not bode well for the 49ers being able to open the offense up this week. Dilfer tried to stretch the field last week, but his intermediate-to-deep throws were either into traffic or off target.

Baltimore is struggling to stop the pass for a few reasons. First and foremost they are not getting pressure on the QB and rank 26th in sacks this season. Secondly, CB Chris McAlister has not played with any consistency and thirdly, Samari Rolle missed his second consecutive game last week. Rolle will be a question mark again this week. Baltimore is not going to get as much pressure because they will once again be without DE Trevor Pryce. This will force defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to blitz more this week.

Look for Baltimore to be very aggressive with its front seven this week because Dilfer is not a mobile QB and if pressured will put the ball up for grabs. The biggest issue with the San Francisco passing game is that starting receivers Arnaz Battle and Darrell Jackson struggle to separate. Neither is a vertical threat in the offense and can be covered one-on-one on the outside. This will allow the Ravens to come after Dilfer and take steps in coverage with their pass defense this week.