There is no better way for Jarrett Stidham to make his debut as the starting quarterback of the Las Vegas Raiders. In his first game as the Raiders’ starting quarterback, Stidham must face the best defense in the league; therefore, it’s clear that this is sarcasm. Let’s examine the strong defense of the 49ers in terms of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Raiders Week 17: All-Pros on every level for the 49ers
The 49ers defense, according to ESPN, is first in terms of yards and points surrendered per game. This is due to the fact that all three tiers of their defense have potential all-pro players. The league’s top linebacker tandem of Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner, Talanoa Hufanga, and Nick Bosa are all dominating this season. When you consider that DeMeco Ryans, the best defensive coordinator in football, is in charge of this defense, it becomes even more dangerous.
The current favorite for Defensive Player of the Year is Nick Bosa. He is currently leading the league in sacks and is perhaps the best edge defender in the NFL. Greenlaw and Warner both deserve All-Pro nods after this season. They are everywhere on the field, and both make plays and terrify ball carriers with their forceful hitting. For the 49ers, Hufanga is a playmaker in the back end of their defense. He has a feel for the ball and dominates the middle of the field.
It’s absurd to have players of All-Pro caliber on every level of your defense. Arik Armstead, Azeez Al-Shaair, Jimmie Ward, and Charvarius Ward are also solid defensive contributors. This defense is strong on every level, and they play effectively even when they are constantly dealing with injuries.
Those third downs…
There are not many weaknesses in this defense. Ryans does a superb job of ensuring that his defense is prepared for all situations. On third downs, however, they fall short to their standard. According to TeamRankings, the 49ers defense is 15th in opponent third down conversion percentage and are tied for 17 with the Raiders in opponent third down conversions per game. Stidham can therefore use this to his advantage to attack the 49ers defense.Â
The Raiders will have chances to convert if they can convert on third and short situations. Stidham will fortunately have a wide variety of effective weaponry available to make these third-down conversions simpler. But Bosa and Co. will feast if they manage to move into third and long scenarios.
The Santa Clara injury bug
The entire 49ers squad has been plagued by the injury bug, but some of their defense’s key players have had trouble staying healthy. Javon Kinlaw, Armstead, and Ward have all missed games due to injuries. Bosa (illness) and Kinlaw (knee) were absent from practice on Wednesday, though they did participate in some capacity both Thursday and Friday. Kerry Hyder and Armstead both had limitations due to injuries to their ankles. This defense’s only real weakness is injuries, which is concerning for rival offenses.
*Top Photo: NBC Sports/Bay Area