clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 questions with Field Gulls: The 49ers defensive line owns a significant edge

Plus, how an update on Geno Smith’s injury

San Francisco 49ers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Happy Holidays! We get to watch meaningful football today, and the 49ers are on for dessert. John Gilbert from Field Gulls gave us an update about Geno Smith’s injury, and why tonight could be similar to the Ravens/Seahawks outcome earlier this year.

How concerning is the injury to Geno Smith, not only for this week’s contest but also in closing out the season and fighting for a playoff spot?

The specific injury Geno Smith suffered against the Rams in Week 11 is itself not too worrisome, as long as the reports that it is nothing more than a bruise and that there is no structural damage are accurate.

However, for a lot of fans the offense recording fewer first downs (0) than turnovers (1) during the quarter in which Drew Lock was at the helm shined a light on what can be expected should something happen to Smith, and that has a good number of fans concerned that Seattle could be one sack away from being bumped out of playoff contention.

What adjustments from last year’s three losses to San Francisco do you want to see from the Seattle coaching staff, and how can they pull off the upset?

In the wake of the loss to the Niners in the Wild Card game last season, Pete Carroll was very open about the fact that there is a talent gap between the two rosters.

The Hawks look to have added more young talent in the draft for a second year in a row, but between youth and inexperience and a lack of practice time together due to injuries and other factors, the roster has yet to come together and gel in a manner that would put it on the same level as that of San Francisco.

With that in mind, and with the largest array of offensive weapons Geno has had during his tenure as starting quarterback for the Seahawks, my hope is that Seattle comes out aggressive and attacks the Niners like they did during the first half of the Wild Card game.

That game certainly did not end how Seattle fans hoped, but the Seahawks' offense made enough big plays in the first half to keep it close, and I have a feeling they’ll need to be aggressive in looking for those same big plays to win Thursday. If they try to play ball control and attack the 49ers with the ground game, I fear it will be a recipe for a rout.

Rookie Devon Witherspoon has been sensational in his first season as a pro, but are there any other Seahawks rookies worth keeping an eye on in this game and down the stretch?

Witherspoon’s name is the one that should certainly be at the top of the list, and is most likely to be heard repeatedly from the announcers because he has a tendency to be all over the field making plays. However, it’s on offense where rookies have the chance to make the largest impact.

In 2022, the Niners completely erased the Seattle tight ends from the offense, with Will Dissly, Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson combining for 15 receptions for 81 yards in the three games combined.

That would seem to have led in part to the Seahawks using their second first round pick in 2023 on wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has yet to have a breakout game, but whose contributions have steadily increased in recent weeks. In addition, with Ken Walker out due to injury, rookie Zach Charbonnet will likely see a significant workload, a development that has a lot of Seattle fans excited.

Is the Seattle offensive line versus the San Francisco defensive line the most concerning mismatch in this game, or do you think there is a different position battle that will have a larger impact on the outcome?

Yes, with zero question and zero hesitation. The Baltimore defensive front absolutely mauled the young and inexperienced Seattle offensive line on the way to the Ravens steamrolling the Seahawks 37-3, and the domination up front led to the worst offensive performance by the team since Russell Wilson tried returning from a broken finger too early during the 2021 season.

If the Seattle offensive line isn’t able to handle the 49ers defensive front, it will likely be a very, very long night for Seahawks fans. And this is not isolated solely to the physical matchup along the defensive front, it includes the use of stunts and games up front to confuse the inexperienced Seattle line.

The Hawks have been horrific at recognizing and picking up stunts, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if Steve Wilks dials up a lot of pass rushes designed to confuse the young Seahawks linemen.

The 49ers won by 8 last season at Lumen Field, and stand as 7-point favorites on the road at DraftKings Sportsbook. What is your prediction for the game and do you think the Seahawks cover, or even pull off the Thanksgiving upset?

I would love to say I see the Seahawks come away with a win, or even cover, but I just don’t think it will happen. I expect the game to be within a score for most of the night, but my guess is that a late push from the 49ers gives San Francisco a two score lead, and that will simply be too much for the Hawks to handle, with the final ending something along the lines of 27-16 or 24-13.