49ers vs. Titans: Why Denico Autry is a problem for San Francisco

Denico Autry #96 of the Tennessee Titans (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Denico Autry #96 of the Tennessee Titans (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

35. 49ers -3.5. 8:20 p.m. ET. 8-6. Thursday, Dec. 23. NFL Network. 9-5. 42

The Titans pass rush might be the best way to neutralize the 49ers offense in Week 16, and defensive end Denico Autry could end up being an issue.

There are only a few realistic ways the San Francisco 49ers end up losing their short-week Thursday Night Football road matchup against the struggling and banged-up Tennessee Titans in Week 16.

The first, of course, is the reality West Coast teams traveling east on a short week always creates problems. Additionally, the Niners could be beset by more self-inflicted wounds, which is always at a greater risk on a short week anyway.

All other things being negated, though, there’s still room for one other possibility for San Francisco to leave Nissan Stadium Thursday night with a loss.

Tennessee’s pass rush.

In fact, both teams’ pass rushes should be of note for this prime-time bout, specifically EDGE Nick Bosa and his 15 sacks this season frequently lining up against the Titans’ underperforming right tackle, David Quessenberry.

On the flip side, though, the 49ers have to be concerned about Titans defensive end Denico Autry.

Titans DE Denico Autry could cause problems for 49ers on Thursday

While Tennessee isn’t exactly known for a high-profile defense this season, it has received some notable results in the pass-rush department, currently ranked 12th in the league with 35 sacks.

The Titans’ team leader in this department is EDGE Harold Landry, who’ll primarily line up on the weak side of the formation and will frequently try getting past perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.

The Niners shouldn’t be too concerned about that matchup.

But the right side of San Francisco’s offensive line is another matter where backup right tackle Tom Compton has emerged as a pass-blocking liability in the wake of starting tackle Mike McGlinchey’s season-ending quad injury.

To date, according to Pro Football Focus, Compton has surrendered four sacks and 15 quarterback pressures on just 201 pass-blocking snaps played this season.

Not a good matchup versus Autry’s seven sacks on the year, second on the Titans defense behind Landry.

Read More: What Niners can learn from Titans loss to Steelers

Tennessee uses a base 3-4 defense, meaning fellow EDGE Bud Dupree will be in on specific pass-rushing downs, too, yet he’s been banged up for most of the year and has just two sacks over eight games played anyway.

It’s Autry, not Dupree the 49ers O-line has to be worried about.

Compton’s attempts to keep quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo upright on Thursday night might be the hidden X-factor towards ensuring the Niners improve to 9-6 on the season and hold onto one of the final remaining Wild Card spots.

But if Autry emerges as a problem, those prospects could be in danger.

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