Because I didn't realize that Brandon was already in touch with the bloggers over at Niners Nation, I also sent a few questions over to them in the hopes of having a Q&A post. I did get responses from a different person, however, as Tre was kind enough to give me some answers. Some of the questions I asked are similar to Brandon's, but I think it's at least somewhat interesting to see a second opinion.
APC: Brian Westbrook had a big game filling in for the injured Frank Gore on Sunday. His stats looked good against Arizona, but how effective do you think he’ll be against the Packers’ defense? Are there concerns about how he can hold up against injury going forward, or will his limited workload early in the season keep him fresh for the rest of this year?
Tre: Westbrook will be the primary back and I expect he'll get 90% of third-down snaps as well, but I think rookie Anthony Dixon will play a fair amount, 10-15 touches, as well. Westbrook never has been a 25+ carry player and with his injury history (mostly his knees and ankles) I don't think it's fair or wise to pretend he is that type of back nowadays either. Still, Dixon is raw and might be a liability if called upon for 20+ touches per game, not to mention the mental side of blitz pickups/pass protection.
APC: I haven’t had a chance to watch any 49ers games since Troy Smith has taken over as the starting QB. What are your impressions of him, and could you see him starting for the Niners in the long term or is he just a stopgap?
Tre: Alex Smith is likely done in a 49ers uniform unless someone from the current or new (let's not kid ourselves) regime wants to retain him as a backup...at which he'd be very good. Troy seems to have earned the right to continue starting through the end of the 2010 season but his future beyond that is unclear. We've not seen him perform particularly well inside the pocket, though he also has only been with the team for a few short months. Personally I'd like it if he worked out to be a long-term (or mid-term) solution so we wouldn't have to spend a high draft pick on a QB...but my gut says we will likely draft a QB in the first two rounds no matter what Troy does so that we have a few viable options at the position going forward. Troy has played well for coming to us late and having suspect play-calling at times. I have some hope.
APC: The Niners’ defense got a lot of hype this offseason after they finished 4th in scoring defense last year. While they haven’t regressed much statistically (20.5 points allowed per game vs. 17.6 in 2009), the perception seems to be that they’re playing much more poorly. Can you explain why that is, and how do you see the defense performing the rest of the season?
Tre: Part of the problem is the offense turning the ball over (mostly earlier in the season) so much and also not putting up enough points to win games. The other part of the problem is having average-at-best DB's and thus, not many creative/aggressive blitzes due to perceived lack of trust in the secondary. The defense hasn't forced many turnovers or recorded many sacks, though admittedly in 2009 those two stats were inflated later in the season as well. Who knows, maybe there will be a resurgence late this year that will bring the numbers back to a more respectable level. The run defense is still pretty darn good...as it always has been. Take away sacks and turnovers though and most defenses will lose some luster.
APC: Much has been made of the Packers causing coaches to lose their jobs this year. How hot is the seat under Mike Singletary really, and do you think he’ll keep his job through to next season?
Tre: I think he will last thru 2010 because there is nobody on the staff who isn't needed in their current position badly, so them taking over as interim HC isn't feasible. I suppose this means potential candidates wont have public knowledge of the position being open until the off-season, thereby potentially reducing the chance we "win" the race to get a certain guy...but as long as the Yorks make a thoughtful selection that isn't influenced by pinching pennies or power trips...we should be better with just about anyone who can be competent as head coach.
APC: Packers fans should recognize the name Deshawn Wynn on the 49ers roster. Wisconsin Badger fans will recognize Chris Maragos, who recently got called up from the practice squad. Can you tell me about two more players, one on offense and one on defense, who we should watch for on Sunday despite not being household names?
Tre: Justin Smith is probably the second best defender we have yet, to most, he's not even close to a household name. His stats on QB pressures/hits and sacks despite playing DE in a 3-4 (where players are routinely double-teamed) are amazing. His motor never stops and he's a 3-down player who rarely ever comes off the field. If we had two of him our defense would likely make a giant leap into another tier.
Delanie Walker is the second TE on the team but since we use so much 12 personnel (1 back, 2 TE's) you will see him in the game a ton. He is every bit as fast as his counterpart, TE Vernon Davis (who is faster than a lot of WR's), and is a mismatch on a DB or a LB. He will make at least 2or 3 key plays in the game like a long completion, a nice run-after-catch for a first down, or a reverse.