On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers travel west to take on their old nemesis, the San Francisco 49ers. David Fucillo of Niners Nation was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the 49ers and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: How has the mass exodus of players affected the 49ers on offense? On defense?
It has not been good. I view the biggest losses as being on the offensive line. Mike Iupati left in free agency, and Anthony Davis abruptly retired. The team is also missing Daniel Kilgore who is on the PUP list. The Davis loss shifted Erik Pears from reserve swing tackle to starting right tackle. He has had some decent moments, but a lot of struggles as well. The offensive line problems are the biggest reason for the team's offensive struggles.
On defense, the team lost a lot of veteran leadership, with Patrick Willis and Justin Smith retiring. Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver were the two starting cornerbacks, and the team has gone particularly young there. The bigger issue is in the pass rush. The decision to release Aldon Smith has left the team thin at OLB, and the pass rush has not been consistent.
APC: Through three games, What impressions have you formed about new 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula?
The biggest concern is his coaching staff. Colin Kaepernick struggled last season compared to previous seasons, and instead of bringing in an outside mind, the 49ers promoted his quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. On the defensive side, Eric Mangini brought in a new scheme that requires more thinking, and less reacting. The defense has been burned by this.
With Tomsula specifically, one issue might be that he is a bit too much of a players' coach. He has said he does not want to emotionally overreact and start benching guys. He thinks it will have them looking over their shoulders too much. The problem with that is he might be slow to bench players that probably need benching. It is only three weeks into the season, but there seem to be some serious issues in the starting lineup. We'll see if a potentially ugly loss on Sunday changes anything.
APC: Colin Kaepernick has individually destroyed the Packers during his career, but he hasn't played anywhere near that level this season. Do you expect to see the world-destroyer version of Kaepernick make an appearance this Sunday, or do you expect his struggles to continue?
I'd argue that Kap showed some improvement through Week 2 in his approach to the passing game, and then it all came crashing down in Week 3. We are seeing him run the ball at similar rates to in the past, but I am not sure we are seeing as much of the designed run as before. He's been fairly effective running the ball this season, so we'll see if it shows up this Sunday.
The biggest problem in all this, at least in my opinion, is the offensive line has been abysmal. Joe Staley and Alex Boone have been solid enough on the left side, but center to right tackle has been a train wreck. That has led to Staley and Boone struggling at times to compensate for that side. Kap has shown he needs solid line play to reach some of his immense potential on a consistent basis. He is not getting that.
APC: The quality of the Levi's Stadium turf has been heavily discussed since the facility opened last year. Have the 49ers fixed the problem, or will the field still be an issue this week?
After some issues in the first few weeks of training camp/preseason, it sounds like they have addressed the issue sufficiently. There were some issues with grass being cut to high, and all indications are that they have found the appropriate length. There could certainly be future problems for whatever reason, but there is no reason right now to think it will be a problem on Sunday.
APC: Finally, who wins on Sunday and why?
I think the Packers win, and likely cover the 8.5-point spread. History has actually favored heavy home underdogs, with home dogs of 7+ points 154-94 against the spread since 1999. I think this 49ers team has enough problems that I am inclined to throw out historical stats. The offensive line has struggled the last two weeks, the pass rush has been inconsistent, and the scheme for defending the pass has been off. Just those latter two would put the team in a bad position heading into a game with Aaron Rodgers.
As far as how they might win? Well, if they address all those issues for Sunday's game. The Packers short week, and the slim chance they are overlooking the 49ers combined with San Francisco getting up even further for this game are certainly possibilities. I'm skeptical, but they are possibilities.
We'd like to thank David and Niners Nation for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there, as well as their fantastic coverage of all things 49ers. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers vs. 49ers.