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Top 10 Spotlight: 49ers vs. Jaguars

Posted Oct 25, 2013

The 49ers face the Jaguars in London for Week 8 of the regular season. Here are the top 10 storylines to watch for.

The NFL International Series for 2013 concludes this Sunday with the San Francisco 49ers facing the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 49ers look for a fifth straight victory. The Jaguars, on the other hand, look to snap a seven-game skid to open the 2013 season.

Here are the top 10 storylines to track on Sunday.

10. Marks the Spot
Fifth-year defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks is an underrated player on Jacksonville’s roster. The 49ers have to account for the 6-foot-2, 294-pound defensive end. “Very under the radar,” said Greg Roman, San Francisco’s offensive coordinator. “He is off the count and getting consistent penetration. So while he’s not getting the numbers, he’s setting things up for everybody else quite a bit. We’re very aware of him.” Jim Harbaugh also noted that the Jaguars force pressure with their four-man defensive front and they’re able to hit the opposing quarterback on a weekly basis. The 49ers will have to account for Marks and company to ensure Colin Kaepernick doesn’t take unnecessary hits in the pocket.

9. Special Teams Dominance
The 49ers special teams units are steadily improving in 2013. Gunners like C.J. Spillman, Kassim Osgood and Darryl Morris are among the best coverage players in the league. Morris and Osgood worked in tandem to put points on the board last week in Tennessee. Morris forced a fumble on a punt return and Osgood was in position to hop on the ball in the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Currently, San Francisco boasts one of the top coverage units in the NFL. The 49ers rank fifth in kickoff return average (20.4 yards per return) and seventh in punt return average (5.7 yards per return).

8. Slippery Slope – If the field is wet at Wembley Stadium, the 49ers will have to “hunker down,” as Harbaugh often says, and find a way to win. In 2010, the last time San Francisco played in London, the field was moist and footing was an issue. The turf will likely be in a similar condition this week, but it might work in the 49ers favor, should the teams elect to go man-to-man in the trenches. The 49ers have the NFL’s No. 3 rushing attack (143.3 yards per game), while the Jaguars have the No. 32 rushing attack (63 yards per game).

7. Henne Goes for 300
Chad Henne has put up back-to-back 300-yard passing games and will look to air it out against a top-notch 49ers pass defense. The 49ers rank fifth in the league, allowing 219.4 passing yards per game. San Francisco has been able to limit big games from opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks and that’s without the pressure provided off the edge from All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith. As for Henne, the challenge will be to convert on third-and-long situations if San Francisco is able to bottle up eight-year veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew on base downs.

6. T-Brock
The success in pass defense is team-wide, but fourth-year cornerback Tramaine Brock has truly provided a spark to the unit. Brock has three interceptions in three weeks and is now tied for the team lead with rookie free safety Eric Reid. With Brock excelling in San Francisco’s nickel schemes, veteran Nnamdi Asomugha has been inactive on gamedays. Brock’s future with the 49ers looks promising and he’ll be counted on again this Sunday.

5. Defending Blackmon
Jacksonville’s top play-maker is averaging 128 yards per game in three appearances in 2013. After serving a four-game suspension to start the season, Blackmon, a former No. 5 overall draft pick, has returned to become the Jaguars top option on offense. The 49ers will share the responsibility of stopping the 6-foot-1, 210-pound wideout. Expect all three of San Francisco’s top cornerbacks to matchup against Blackmon this Sunday.

4. Kap and VD's Chemistry
Colin Kaepernick and Vernon Davis continue to heat up in the month of October. Davis has 330 receiving yards, third most in the NFL among all players. Davis has caught six of Kaepernick’s eight touchdown passes this season, too. The Jaguars have a relatively young secondary and only have three interceptions as a group this season. Expect Kaepernick to continue his chemistry with Davis on an international stage.

3. D-line Depth
Justin Smith had two sacks last week and continues to be his bull-rushing self on Sundays. It helps that the 13-year veteran is given the courtesy of taking Wednesday practice off. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said it’s key for the 49ers to give Smith that rest during the week so he can be full-strength on Sundays. With Smith being limited during the week, young players on the defensive line are benefiting from a heavier practice workload. Young defensive linemen like Tony Jerod-Eddie, Demarcus Dobbs and Quinton Dial have all seen more playing time in recent weeks and they all feel prepared to step in and handle the increased playing time.

2. Pistol Plans
The zone-read was all the rage after San Francisco’s comfortable win in Tennessee. Kaepernick scored his first rushing touchdown of the season, a 20-yard run, which happened on a quarterback designed run. Perhaps even more impressive was how Roman called the play on a 3rd-and-7. The 49ers have held the pistol offensive plays in their back pocket for a rainy day and it could be a great time to showcase the running scheme against the Jaguars.

1. Enjoying the Moment
It’s not very often that you get to play on a stage like Wembley Stadium. The venue is historic and a win overseas will be a great experience for a 49ers team looking to keep pace in the NFC West. The 49ers are 1-1 all-time in international games and a win over the Jaguars would be memorable and a perfect send-off before the bye week.


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