BRB and the staff over at our sister site, Niners Nation, have had a grand old time this week writing content together as we get ever closer to this Sunday Night's clash between two league powerhouses (who both happen to be 2-2, but we'll ignore that). To cap things off, David Fucillo was kind enough to answer some burning questions about his beloved 49ers.
1. What are your perceptions of Colin Kaepernick's play this season?
It's been an up and down season for Kaepernick thus far. In the season opener against the Packers, Kap put together a strong "traditional pocket passer" kind of performance. He did run at times, accruing 22 rushing yards, but he was able to pick apart the Packers' secondary, to the tune of 412 passing yards. In his next two games against the Seahawks and Colts, Kap struggled. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, and the struggles can fall under several reasons. The loss of Michael Crabtree has been felt dearly, with the 49ers lacking legitimate receiving options behind Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. At the same time, Kap has not seen open guys down the field, and at times has seemed hesitant. His performances last year were predicated in part on his ability to use his instincts. He seems less instinctual at times, almost like he is over-thinking everything.
The 49ers got back to basics last week against the Rams. They ran and ran and ran on the Rams, and Kap performed in almost an Alex Smith style of game manager play. He still made some throws that Smith does not make, but it was a low key approach. And it worked. It is important to note that Kaepernick only has 14 starts under his belt. Three of them were playoff starts, but he is still learning what it is like to be a quarterback in the NFL. It is an evolution, which means there are stretches where we just won't know what to expect. It can be frustrating at times, but it is a growing process.
2. Is Corey Lemonier ready to step up and take over the primary pass rush role in the wake of Aldon Smith's stint in rehab? How has he looked?
The 49ers' solution for "replacing" Aldon Smith right now has been a combination of Lemonier and Dan Skuta. In Aldon Smith's 2011 rookie season, Parys Haralson handled the base 3-4 downs, while Aldon came on the field in nickel and some dime situations. That ended up getting him on the field nearly half the time. This week, Skuta operates in the Haralson role, and Lemonier in the Aldon role. It is worth noting that Skuta also does a lot of special teams work, so Lemonier will get some base defense looks when Skuta is involved in lengthy special teams running immediately prior.
All that being said, Lemonier looked solid in his pass rushing debut last week. He looked sharp in training camp, but through the first three weeks, Lemonier played a few special teams snaps each week, and not much more. In Week 4, he was unleashed, and he made a solid impact. He had a QB hit, two hurries and three tackles, and generally made a nuisance of himself. He is still fairly raw as a pass rusher, but he has great natural ability. He will be a handful coming off the edge. Of course, given that the Texans use their base offensive package a fair amount, it will be interesting to see how much the 49ers use him outside of pass rushing situations. His work against the run was inconsistent in the preseason, so that could prove more important to watch on Sunday.
3. I was high on Vance McDonald going into this year's draft. How has he performed as Delanie Walker's replacement?
It's been a little frustrating for 49ers fans watching McDonald. He has one reception in each game, and generally when he has made a reception, he has been very willing to run over the nearest defender. However, he's not getting a lot of looks. He's a big guy who has good hands, but his run blocking hasn't been ideal. While Delanie Walker was an inconsistent pass catcher, he was one of the most underrated skill position blockers in the league. McDonald will continue to get opportunities, but he needs to improve his run blocking.
4. Cornerback seems to have been an issue so far this season with Chris Culliver out for the year. Is corner the top priority in this upcoming draft in
Cornerback and wide receiver are likely the two priorities next offseason. The 49ers' cornerback position could be dealing with a lot of turnover, even with the return of Chris Culliver next season. Tarell Brown and Nnamdi Asomugha are free agents, and Carlos Rogers is a candidate to be released if he does not restructure his contract. The team needs cornerback depth, and I have to think they go that route in the draft. They added safety Eric Reid this year, so it only makes sense to further anchor the secondary.
Nnamdi has not been bad, but he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire as the team's third cornerback. He injured his knee in Week 3, which got Tramaine Brock in as the third cornerback against the Rams, and Brock will likely handle those duties against the Texans. Brock had a couple problems early on, but settled down and looked really solid for much of last week's game. 49ers fans are hoping he can show some consistency and move ahead of Nnamdi on the depth chart.
5. Put your name on it. The final score of this game will be SF _____ - HOU _____ . Why?
I have to go with my 49ers, and I'll say 24-16, with the slight cover on the touchdown spread! The 49ers are 8-1-1 under Jim Harbaugh when they have extra time to prepare for a game (following byes and Thursday games, season openers, playoffs). That isn't the be-all, end-all of this prediction, but the 49ers are going to need that extra time to prepare for the likes of J.J. Watt on defense and the Texans' rushing attack. I think the 49ers will establish the ground game, and win on the ground. We'll see some play action and Colin Kaepernick scrambling around, but the 49ers win this game with a strong day from Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.
Thanks again to Fooch for taking the time to answer these. Make sure to stop by Niners Nation to see what San Francisco fans are saying about the game.