The San Francisco 49ers face a Seattle Seahawks team that has managed to blow fourth quarter leads four different times this season. David Neumann discussed their struggles earlier today. While he is not optimistic about Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers passing game executing as needed, there is one area where the 49ers could push to find some success.
That area is against tight ends. Football Outsiders ranks the Seahawks defense No. 13 against the pass, but No. 31 against tight ends. If you look through their four losses, tight ends have put up some solid numbers. Here are the numbers:
vs. Carolina: Greg Olsen - 7 rec, 131 yards, 1 TD
vs. Bengals: Tyler Eifert - 8 rec, 90 yards, 2 TD
vs. Packers: Richard Rodgers - 3 rec, 23 yards, 1 TD
vs. Rams: Jared Cook - 5 rec, 85 yards
It's certainly good news to see a specific position group having success against the Seahawks. The problem of course is that the 49ers tight ends are not exactly the ideal unit to take advantage of this opportunity. Jim Tomsula said he thought the tight ends were a strength of the team, but in the passing game, it has been the wide receivers that have made significantly more plays.
I spoke briefly with Danny Kelly about the Seahawks struggles against tight ends, and he was not all that sure. He thought it might have something to do with the Cover 3 the Seahawks employ opening some holes in the zone. But beyond that he is not certain.
Last January, current 49ers QB coach Steve Logan was previewing the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl matchup, and he discussed the tight end side of things. He was talking about the Seahawks defense, and how the Patriots could attack it with various option routes. His co-hosts then mentioned the tight end seam route, and he discussed it in connection on what he would need to do with Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick, you're gonna teach this guy to hit that [TE seam route], just that over the linebacker level...
That's called a one-inch throw, by the way.
That one-inch throw, just one inch over the linebacker's hands, you can see it in your sleep, but how do you employ confidence in that throw to your quarterback? What do you tell him?
Well, you drill it. And the way that you instill confidence in anything, here's the way that I go about things, and I gotta believe most coaches do. You find events, repetitive events, on film. Capture those, recreate them on the field to create a drill. So this is a common throw, the 4-vertical throw that you're talking about, which, the completion area is 17-22 yards down the field. If it's any earlier than 17, the linebacker's gonna pick it off. If it's any later than 22, the safety's going to kill your wide receiver or intercept the ball. So, this is a repetitive event that you can set up in drill fashion. Go out on the football field and throw a billion of them. And that's what you do. And guess what? At this point in Tom Brady's career, he's thrown that ball a billion times. That's a free throw shot for him, with his eyes closed. So there you go.
Part of this will fall on Kap executing the throws, and part of this will fall on Vernon Davis actually making some plays. He has been a shell of his former self the last season and a half. And of course, we know he has a bad history against Seattle. He has not scored a touchdown against them since 2010, and he has not exceeded 50 yards receiving since 2011. It seems like this defense is in his head to a certain extent, and you combine that with his current struggles, and it does not bode well.
But maybe we consider this "Vernon's Last Stand", so to speak. I'd like to think he could maybe get one last big effort in before departing the 49ers this offseason, but we also might just finally reach the end of the road with him. The homer in me thinks we could see a decent game from him against Seattle. The realist in me does not expect a whole lot of much, and in fact, expects to see more again from Garrett Celek.
I suppose Vance McDonald could also be in the mix to take advantage of the Seahawks, but he too is struggling to do much of anything in the passing game. He caught a pass last week and the sarcastic responses were overwhelming. So maybe that also opens the door for Bruce Miller a little bit? He was more effective than either Davis or McDonald last week. It's on film for the Seahawks to study, but maybe it opens the door for something.
I feel like this is mostly the ramblings of somebody hoping to see something big, but not really expecting it. That's what the 2015 49ers bring to the table at this point.