The 49ers are preparing for the Chicago Bears in their fourth road game. This game is monumental for San Francisco’s playoff hopes. Chicago is 31st in EPA per play, but they rank six spots above (click offense) Kyle Shanahan’s rushing success rate.
The defense isn’t responsible for the 49er's current position. However, we are going to focus on defense to see how guys respond to players going down. Here are three players that can help out this injury bugged 49er team.
Jaquiski Tartt has been ruled out of Sunday’s game. Tartt’s value is in his versatility. His ability to fit the run as a box safety and his ability to cover as a post (one-high) safety is underrated. Tartt was fourth on the team in defensive snaps played this year.
Now it's time for Talanoa Hufanga to shine. Hufanga has been a special team's ace all year. He played 34 snaps against the Colts last week in Tartt’s absence. The Bears are 31st in passing attempts and eighth in rushing attempts. Bears quarterback Justin Fields will attack the defense deep if he has noticed how many defensive pass interference penalties this secondary has been called for.
I was critical of Hufanga’s ball skills before the season. With that being said, it’s easy to wonder if he can hold up against the names of Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney. According to Sharp Football Stats, Chicago’s offense is predominantly in 11 personnel (3 WRs,1TE,1RB) and 12 personnel (2 TEs, 2WRs, 1RB.) Hufanga’s high motor can’t go unnoticed on film. His physicality at the point of attack will match well against tight ends.
Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans should let Hufanga play some linebacker to replace the absence of Azeez Al-Shaair, whose monster game was ruined by a costly play last week. Hufanga brings more spunk to the defense over Marcell Harris Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles.
The defensive tackle group looked to be the strongest unit on the team before injuries sidelined players. Kevin Givens returns from a high ankle sprain to assist this interior defensive line unit.
Givens is a disruptive wrecking ball. He will need a few tackles for loss to slow down this heavy rushing attack. But, Givens is more than capable of disrupting the quarterback.
Jordan Willis returns from his PED suspension Sunday. Last year, Willis showed that he could set the edge and rush the passer. Arden Key and Willis will see more snaps at edge this week, with Dee Ford out.
Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, and Ford have carried the pass-rush productivity this year. The Niners need another player to contribute to increasing the pressure rate. I predict Willis to come away with three pressures And a sack. Chicago has a 58% team pass block win rate that lands them 17th in the league. The 49ers' defensive front could have their biggest game of the season against this sub-par Bears offensive line.