SF 49ers must neutralize Chandler Jones
One of the stars of the Cardinals defense is EDGE Chandler Jones, who led the team with 19 sacks in 2019 and stands as their main pass-rushing weapon.
Outside of that, the Cardinals defensive line and pass rush doesn’t inspire a great deal of fear, as both their other two sack leaders from last year, EDGE Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Rodney Gunter, are both gone.
This means the Niners can focus most of their attention on neutralizing Jones, who moves to both sides of the defensive line when rushing the passer based on the situation.
Jones and the Cardinals may choose to focus their attention on SF 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who while still a good player, is certainly the weaker of the two tackles, as left tackle Trent Williams has done good work against Jones in the past.
So part of the game plan is to hope McGlinchey has a good game and that the rest of the line holds up against weaker opponents.
The other part is to do what good offenses do in the face of a strong pass-rusher: get the back out of the quarterback’s hands and into the hands of playmakers in space.
Using Kittle, McKinnon, and Reed in this way is part of this, but so is utilizing the short passing game with wide receivers Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, and rookie Brandon Aiyuk.
This would also be a great opportunity for second-year receiver Deebo Samuel to continue to terrorize the Cardinals as he did during their second matchup last season, to the tune of eight catches for 134 yards, but it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll be available for Week 1.
Even without Samuel, the 49ers receivers should be good enough to overwhelm the Cardinals defensive backs, who outside of Patrick Peterson, are not all that good, with quick-hit passes that rely on the receivers to use their legs to rack up yards after the catch.
If the occasional big shot is open, however, they should be taken advantage of, much like this Dante Pettis touchdown in last season’s game. But mostly expect those quick passes to neutralize Jones and get the ball into the hands of playmakers.