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49ers vs. Lions preview: What to watch when Detriot has the ball

San Francisco prepares for a familiar face in quarterback Jared Goff.

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San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Gameday is four days away as the 49ers prepare to travel to Ford Field to play the Detroit Lions.

San Francisco prepares for a familiar face in quarterback Jared Goff, who looks to make his own imprint on the Lions franchise with a scarce amount of playmakers. I look at some of Detroit's key offensive players and highlight some 49ers who can stop them.

Lions offensive weapons

The Lions made Frank Ragnow the highest-paid center in the NFL in May. According to Pro Football Focus, Ragnow did not give up a sack last season. Entering his fourth season, Ragnow is a versatile center that played guard his rookie year.

Brandon Thorn graded Ragnow as a tier 2 center in his Trench Warefare Newsletter. He is not just a great pass-blocker but also vicious in the run game. The Niners' depth at defensive tackle will be tested by Ragnow alone. Kevin Givens and Javon Kinlaw missed practice yesterday, though they should be available for Sunday’s game.

T.J. Hockenson

Hockenson earned Pro-Bowl honors last season with 67 catches for 723 yards ad six touchdowns. In addition, Lindsay Jones of the Athletic selected Hockenson to The Athletic’s second annual All-Under-25 Team.

Hockenson went to Iowa with San Francisco's own George Kittle and rising Denver Bronco Noah Fant. He displays some of the same qualities as a pass-catcher like little. He is quick and just gives sheer effort (above) every time he gets the ball.

Hockenson sat out of preseason games after he injured his shoulder in training camp. Look for Hockenson to be spry and targeted early. People should notice Hockenson’s toughness and get a glimpse of his route running above.

The clip above is a rep of Hockenson against man coverage. Again you can see his speed pop out on tape. Again, defenders not named Fred Warner need to step up.

Jamaal Williams

Williams could see a heavy workload with D’andre Swift being worked back in slowly. Swift missed all of training camp and preseason with a groin injury. Again, though, Swift and Hockenson fully participated in practice yesterday.

Williams was a consistent check down for Aaron Rodgers last season. No glaring receiving numbers, but he has consistent hands and is always there for the dump down. In the clip above, you see Williams pace around in pass protection long enough to leak out and catch the check down for a decent gain.

Defensive players that will stand out

Arik Armstead

Armstead gets penetration on the defensive line and can disengage and make a play on the screen.

In another play where we see Armstead lined up inside. In a 3-technique, Armstead performs an end to tackle stunt for the sack. Armstead could see a major boost in pass-rush production with the returns of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford.

D.J. Jones is one of the most underrated players on the team. Unfortunately, his job at times is to eat up blocks solely, so it is easy for him to be overlooked.

Jones had to overcome injuries last year and the year before that. Jones could see more snaps Sunday with questions rising of how healthy Javon Kinlaw is. Kevin Givens was also a scratch for practice yesterday.

Jones beats the down block and disrupts the jet motion block to get the tackle for a loss (first clip.) His sneaky athleticism often pops up when he makes a play in the backfield. Secondly, you see Jones read the guard to help Fred Warner sniff out the RB screen.

DeMeco Ryans staying aggressive

Ryans showed man-to-man coverage with no safety help in the preseason, blitzes with Talanoa Hufanga, and a new refound aggressiveness altogether on defense.

With questionable depth at the corner position, Ryans’ will have to dial up several different looks to keep Goff off track. Ryans need to give rookie Deommodore Lenoir a shot Sunday so we can continue to see him grow,


The Niners have the chance to dominate Detroit Sunday. Hockenson and Ragnow look to carry the Lions' offense along with Goff. However, it’s no secret that San Francisco's defensive line is the strong suit of the defense. So Ryans need the defensive line to show up big Sunday.

Plus, there’s this: