The San Francisco 49ers‘ defense needs to be smart and cautious when they travel to Nashville this week to face the Tennessee Titans. The Titans may only be 3-3 on the season, so far, but they are a team who can surprise with big plays on offense.
All-Pro running back Chris Johnson has not been as productive as he has been earlier in his career, but if he breaks out into the open field, whether through running the ball or catching short passes, then expect the 49ers’ defense to get shredded and spend a lot of time on the field.
The Titans offensive weakness is the offensive line because Johnson cannot get to the line scrimmage before getting hit by defenders. The 49ers’ defense should apply pressure through blitzing just their front four. The linebackers need to sit back and stay at home just in case quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jake Locker throws a flair or screen to Johnson.
The defensive backs need to be physical with the Titans wide receivers so they do not breakout for deep passes. More specifically, rookie safety Eric Reid or All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis need to cover Johnson coming out the backfield because of their athleticism and tackling ability in the open field.
This defense should play well throughout the entire game, but they need to be cautious of the ability for Fitzpatrick/Locker and Johnson to make big plays. If Locker plays, the 49ers’ defense will really have to be on alert. If Fitzpatrick plays, the defense should expect to get a few turnovers and plenty of runs from the signal caller.