Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) November 26, 2014
The San Francisco 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks, and in preparing for the game, one frequently mentioned matchup is the potential of seeing Stevie Johnson line up opposite Richard Sherman. Back in 2012, Johnson eight receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. It was only one game, but it is no surprise that this GIF was shared far and wide among 49ers fans following the team's acquisition of Johnson in May.
This week, Marshall Faulk is asking us about crafty veterans, and how they get things done with signature skills. We could talk about Anquan Boldin's toughness, or Frank Gore's ridiculous vision, but given Johnson's history with Richard Sherman, he seems like the logical choice.
Johnson is not the fastest, most gifted receiver, but he has developed a route-running skill set that allows him to compensate against superior athletes. It is frequently referred to as unorthodox, and our friends at Buffalo Rumblings broke it down two years ago.
Johnson uses a variety of herky-jerky moves that can throw off cornerbacks trying to cover him. Jim Harbaugh tried to describe it a few weeks ago, and the GIF above is him showing it off. In the Buffalo Rumblings article linked above, they break down Johnson's work in a game against the Raiders, and then also against Darrelle Revis. Although Revis is an all-world cornerback, Johnson was able to throw him off his game, even on the simplest of routes. Buffalo Rumblings broke down a basic slant route in which Johnson will flatten his stance and take a step back before moving into his route. It seems fairly basic, but his basketball-style moves allow him to get around some great cornerbacks.
The 49ers have gotten incredibly effective play from Stevie Johnson, but they have not used him all that frequently. He is No. 6 in the NFL in PFF's yards per route run, but you have to broaden the search away from regular players to get him in the rankings.
Over the last three seasons, the 49ers offense has quietly moved through the regular season, only to unleash unexpected plays and schemes once the playoffs arrive. The 49ers find themselves in what is pretty close to a must-win situation. A loss does not end their season, but it would put them in a position where they would probably have to win out to make the playoffs. With that in mind, could we see them unleash Johnson in a bigger way on Thursday? It won't really matter if Kap is getting pounded by Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, but will we see some adjustments in the game plan with a bit more emphasis on Stevie Johnson?