Niners Nation gave us something to think about on the 49ers' offense, and now they're doing the same thing for the defense. Let's take a look at what they had to say about the 49ers' defense:
The 49ers have one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL thanks to a dominant front seven. The big issue this week is the expected absence of nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga. Third year nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois will make his first career start. He's gotten a lot of preseason snaps and brings a load to the middle, but it's still a big change. The 49ers have a downright dominant pair of inside linebackers in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Depending on how RJF can handle the middle of the line, the 49ers could need even more from their two inside linebackers.
The Bucs love to run the ball up the middle and to the right, right into that nose tackle and those middle linebackers. The 49ers have an excellent run defense, and that could be a problem for a Bucs offense that seems to struggle when it can't consistently gain yards on the ground.
But there certainly is an opening for the Bucs on the other side of the ball. The 49ers' passing defense has struggled:
While the rush defense has been dominant, the pass defense has struggled. The team plays a lot of man coverage and Carlos Rogers has been extremely solid at cornerback. The other cornerback, Tarell Brown, has struggled a bit and I would expect Josh Freeman will attack him with frequency. The 49ers often move their corners around as opposed to having them follow around one guy all game along. Their safeties are big hitters but sometimes struggle with their coverage. With a pass rush that can be a little inconsistent at times, it can be a tough day for the secondary. One guy to watch in the pass rush is rookie OLB Aldon Smith, who will appear as a defensive end in the 49ers nickel defense (usually right defensive end).
If the Bucs can keep Freeman clean, and they have done so pretty well so far, the Bucs could have a big day through the air. In fact the Bucs may be best served by making this a game in which they go to the pass early and often.