The title says it all. Last weekend the Seahawks tight end John Carlson caught 6 passes for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. Great for one of my fantasy teams, not so great for the St. Louis Rams. Of course this makes it something for the 49ers to keep in mind heading into their week 2 showdown with the Seahawks. Coach Singletary was asked specifically about Carlson in his post-practice press conference yesterday:
On whether the team has a designated tight-end stopper:
"It’s by committee. Our guys just have to, as much as they want to rush the quarterback and go up-field and play the run. We also have to cover as well, and that’s part of the job. We don’t have a designated guy for that."
On LB Manny Lawson’s ability to cover the tight end:
"Manny does a good job. Manny knows that the most important thing for him is to continue to work his technique. Coverage is all about technique. It’s not about speed. It’s not about all that other stuff. It’s about doing your technique. As long as our guys do that, along with Manny, we’ll be fine."
Under Nolan, Manny Lawson was the designated tight-end stopper, along the lines of a Julian Peterson. This season it sounds like Lawson is getting to focus more on pass rushing, so the question becomes who will handle John Carlson this Sunday?
The options to cover Carlson would include Lawson, CBs Dre Bly or Tarell Brown and FS Dashon Goldson. I don't include Michael Lewis because he's a run-stopping safety who is a bit of a liability in pass coverage.
The question probably comes down to how much are they willing to lose on the pass rush? If you drop Lawson back in coverage against Carlson, that takes a big something out of the pass rush (given Lawson's performance against the Cardinals). However, given Carlson's size and ability, maybe Lawson is the best guy to be covering.
If Deion Branch is out (a very real possibility), the 49ers would also have Bly or Brown more readily available to cover Carlson. Of course, I don't know if those are the kind of guys you want covering a big, athletic tight end. If you look at a guy like Dashon Goldson, he's bigger than Bly and Brown, but then you lose out on your center field-style position.
Any thoughts on what is the optimal solution here? I didn't mention it but I suppose they could role the dice on Bamm Bamm in coverage, but I'm guessing you'd rather have him be able to move all over the field.