With Darrell Revis out for the season with a torn ACL it looked as if the 49ers offense held the only edge over the Jets defense heading into week four. However, now with announcement that Isaac Sopoaga will miss Sunday’s game, the Jets’ offense now has an advantage as well. Sopoaga, who the 49ers defense relies on to clog up the middle of the line, missed the second straight day of practice on Thursday with a knee and ankle injury. The versatile Ricky Jean Francois, who is the backup at left defensive tackle, will move over to nose tackle and start in place of Sopoaga on Sunday.
This is blow to the 49ers defense but not one as huge as the Jets losing Revis to an injury. First, Revis is out for the season while Sopoaga’s injury could have him only missing this weekend’s game. Second, the Jets don’t have an adequate backup to take over for Revis while the 49ers have Jean Francois who has shown he can handle playing the position. Even though this will be Jean Francois’s third career start, he played on 274 snaps in 2011, according to Pro Football Focus. Both of this previous starts were last season against the Buccaneers and Redskins. Against Tampa Bay he started for Sopoaga at nose tackle and recorded three tackles. In the game versus Washington he filled in at defensive tackle for Ray McDonald and had four tackles.
There are two backups at nose tackle listed on the 49ers depth chart, Will Tukuafu and Ian Williams, who have a combined two tackles and zero starts in their career. Tukuafu and Williams both came into the NFL as undrafted free agents, Tukuafu in 2010 and Williams in 2011, and don’t provide better options than Jean Francois at nose tackle.
While Jean Francois does not have the same presence as Sopoaga in the middle of the line, he will be sufficient at the position and will not make nose tackle a total weakness for the defense. Jean Francois only played on two snaps in the first two games, but he was on the field for 20 snaps subbing in for an injured Sopoaga in the loss to the Vikings last week. He had two tackles in the game.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Ricky Jean Francois:
Ricky’s definitely a good player. We have total confidence when he’s in there. We alter nothing when he’s in there. They’re both (Sopoaga and Jean Francois) pretty similar in some ways. They’re both big physical guys on the nose for us. Rick’s got a little more movement ability. Isaac got a little more stoutness to him. I don’t see a big difference in either guy. We would expect Ricky to go out and play pretty good for us.