As Packers fans know, watching a team week in, week out provides additional perspective and insight than the casual observer might notice. Such is certainly the case with the 49ers, the Packers' playoff opponent in the wildcard round. Below, we discussed some of Green Bay's under the radar players while David Fucillo of Niner Nation was kind enough to give some for San Francisco.
The main contributors on Packers offense have seemed to alternate on a weekly basis since Aaron Rodgers fractured his collarbone on November 4th. As a result, some lesser known players now find themselves in significant roles in one of the league's most explosive units.
Jarrett Boykin, a second-year wideout from Virginia Tech, is one such player. After a rookie campaign in which he rarely saw the field, Boykin was thrust into the starting lineup when James Jones and Randall Cobb went down in the same game. Boykin responded by posting 513 yards over the next seven games. Not bad for a former UDFA once waived by Jacksonville.
Tight end Andrew Quarless is another under the radar player. During the first half of 2013, Quarless was saw little action as he was still recovering from a severe knee injury and overshadowed by Jermichael Finley. However, when Finley went down with a scary injury of his own, the coaches began to find more snaps for Quarless. Still, it wasn't until several weeks later when Quarless demonstrated the athleticism and receiving skills that made him an enticing draft choice three years earlier. In back to back weeks late in the season, he posted identical six catch, 66 yard, one touchdown performances, solidifying himself as the Packers new starting tight end. Quarless hasn't quite matched those numbers in the games since, but Aaron Rodgers targeted him six times this past weekend. Expect even more passes to be thrown Quarless' way against the 49ers.
For the third straight week, the 49ers under-the-radar player to watch is going to be the fullback. In this case, it's actually two players. The 49ers lost fullback Bruce Miller to a fractured scapula in Week 15. While the fullback is become more and more rare, the 49ers use their fullback extensively, both in blocking and in the passing game. Before his injury, Miller was actually the third leading receiver on the team behind Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (remember that Michael Crabtree was hurt most of the season).
The 49ers have gone with a two-man approach at fullback. Running back and special teams ace Anthony Dixon, and former defensive tackle Will Tukuafu have split the split. Tukuafu was a two-player on the team to start the season, but he got hurt and agreed to an injury settlement in Week 1. He re-signed with the team after they lost Miller.
In Week 16, Tukuafu finished with one more snap than Dixon, while in Week 17, Dixon finished with four more snaps than Tukuafu. Week 17 saw Dixon become actively involved in the offense, catching two passes, and rushing two times. It wasn't a huge day, but Dixon made an impact on his two catches. His catches came on plays quite similar to what Miller did before he got hurt. Look for Dixon to have a similar type of involvement. He won't be a huge weapon, but he'll be noticeable from time to time. Tukuafu will primarily come in for lead-blocking work.
While the Packers defense has played poorly this season, one player has emerged as a rising star who will anchor the defensive line in the coming years. That player is second-year defensive lineman Mike Daniels.
Daniels possesses an unconventional stature for a 3-4 defensive end (6-0, 291 pounds), yet he has established himself as the Packers' premier pass-rusher along the defensive line. He finished 2013 second on the team in sacks (6.5) behind only Clay Matthews. That number doesn't do Daniels justice, however, as he has also regularly collapsed the pocket leading to hurried throws and sacks for teammates. While San Francisco maintains one of the league's better offensive lines, Daniels will find a way to push Colin Kaepernick out of his comfort zone. Whether the Packers can capitalize on that is another story.
The 49ers secondary has struggled the last two weeks in giving up big yardage totals to Matt Ryan and Carson Palmer. In their Week 17 win over the Cardinals, Carlos Rogers suffered a hamstring strain. He underwent an MRI on Monday, and while Jim Harbaugh would not provide an update, he did confirm the team re-signed former cornerback Perrish Cox. He said this move was in the works after Cox was released by the Seahawks, but who knows what the reality of the situation is.
Whether or not Rogers is unable to play Eric Wright and possibly Cox will get time on the field. The Packers passing game is mostly healthy, which means we could see them spread things out a bit. The 49ers have played a lot of dime against the Packers the last two seasons, which means a fourth cornerback will be needed. And if Rogers is unable to play, Wright and Cox become that much more important.
Cox was the team's dime back in Week 1 against the Packers, and played 13 snaps. The team has since activated Wright, and he will serve as the primary backup at nickel. If Rogers plays, Wright will move to dime, and if Rogers doesn't play, Wright will cover nickel and Cox likely will cover dime. It is possible rookie Darryl Morris or veteran safety C.J. Spillman gets work, but this signing would seem to indicate otherwise.
- 49ers vs. Packers Injury Report: Clay Matthews Ruled Out
- Which San Francisco 49ers Player Would You Want as a Green Bay Packer?
- Packers vs. Bears Game Balls: Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb Lead the Way
- College Bowl Games Preview and Open Thread: December 30
- Cheese Curds: Green Bay Packers News and Links for December 30, 2013