The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of work to do if they want to beat the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday. The 49ers defense likely can contain the Seahawks offense to some degree, but the 49ers offense faces a huge challenge. They did some solid work against the Atlanta Falcons, but they now face a Seahawks defense that while inconsistent, still has some notable playmakers in the pass rush and the secondary.
One area where the Seahawks defense has struggled in particular is against tight ends. Football Outsiders ranks the Seahawks defense seventh overall, but No. 30 in defending tight ends. It is not a simple task narrowing down a defense's performance against a single position, but some of the numbers show a defense struggling with consistency against tight ends. They've only given up huge numbers to a few tight ends, but they are getting beat by tight ends in the end zone a little too regularly:
On Wednesday, Pete Carroll chatted with the 49ers local media, and was asked about the tight ends following the departure of Vernon Davis. Naturally, he had praise for the tight ends, and Garrett Celek in particular:
Well, obviously we came back [last] week and Celek had a couple touchdowns and contributed well. Vance has been a really good player for you for some time. Vernon was very unique player because he was so fast, and he always posed a threat to the opponents that he could get downfield and strike you from anywhere. That's an unusual factor to have on your team. I know he wasn't getting as involved lately, the last month or so, but he was always a threat. He's different. So, Garrett getting a couple touchdowns is a pretty big deal in a game, and if that's where they're able to continue to go, it's gonna be a different set of problems at the tight end spot.
Celek had two catches for 12 yards in Week 9, but both catches were for touchdowns. At times he feels like a more old school tight end who is in there to block, and will get a few opportunities in the passing game. These days we see tight ends with the ridiculous athleticism, with Vernon Davis in his prime being an excellent example. Whereas Davis was a weekly threat to surpass 100 yards receiving, and break one or two huge plays, Celek is a guy who will not blow anybody away in the passing game. His season high in yards is 40, and receptions is three.
That's obviously not to say Celek isn't a valuable weapon. He is making plays for the 49ers, and will be a guy to watch this weekend against the Seahawks. Blaine Gabbert is not one to go deep, often averaging a fairly low average depth per target. That could open the door for Celek to emerge even further as a weapon in this offense. I expect to see him get five or six targets on Sunday. The 49ers need to exploit the short passing game if they want to have any chance of beating this tough Seahawks pass rush. The tight ends could be critical to that.