49ers Nate Clements is back with his Clements' Coverage column this year, taking turns each week with receiver Bryant Johnson in scouting out the upcoming opponent. Get Clements' take as he locks down his preparation for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Donovan McNabb is basically what makes their offense go. He knows the offense and he makes the correct throws. He has a strong arm, and is strong physically. He's capable of scrambling, hard to bring down, and he's kind of a dual threat because he can kill you with his arms or his legs when he scrambles. I think he's probably one of the most versatile quarterbacks we've faced this year.
I'd say their other major weapon is Brian Westbrook, who is one of the best all-around players in the NFL. He's dynamic . He can run up in between the tackles. He has excellent moves as far as making cuts and making a defender miss. He can hurt you as far as receiving as well. He can create a lot of mismatches for your defense. He's strong enough to make it tough on a cornerback to bring down, and that can be a liability. A safety or a linebacker on him can also be a mismatch because he can outrun them.
If he doesn't play, I think they still have a very capable backup in Correll Buckhalter. I've always thought Buckhalter was a good back. He's been healthy this year and he's shown that he's capable of making big plays as well, and running up in between the tackles.
Just from looking at the numbers on their offensive line in terms of height and weight, they are a big, big offensive line. I think one of the things we have to do is make them move. There is not really a lot of space in between them so you have to create space and make them move out of there.
At receiver, the rookie DeSean Jackson is explosive. People say he has everything that you want as a receiver. He's an explosive player and he also does punt returns for them so he can hurt you in different ways. He can stretch the field, get vertical, he has excellent cuts, he can catch the ball, and he's basically a game breaker. He can change the momentum of a game real quick. Reggie Brown is also having a solid year for them and is a talented receiver. Hank Baskett is a big body. Greg Lewis is a sneaky receiver and he runs pretty good intermediate routes and he can hurt you vertically. Jason Avant plays in the slot, but out of all the receivers, I think he has the best hands.
I think the one thing about their receiving corps, they are all capable of going vertical on you. They are not afraid to run across the middle and catch the ball. They can all make plays, and they've all shown it.
We've seen the last couple of weeks, teams attacking us with vertical routes. This week we really have to focus on not giving up any deep balls. We've got to show we can stop those.
Last week we allowed the long ball to Randy Moss. I had a feeling they were going to try to come back and attack us with another long ball after that, and sure enough they did. Fortunately on that one, I was able to read the route, saw the ball in the air and made the interception. We need to do that from the start to show that we can defeat the long ball.
Another player we have to be aware of when they pass is tight end LJ Smith. I think he is underrated because with his size and ability to run, he can also create matchup problems for you. He's really just like a big-bodied receiver. He can run and he can also block, so he's definitely a player who I feel can create matchup problems for you.
Stopping the run and getting off the field on third downs are things we absolutely must do. If we can stop the run and get off the field on third downs, we can give our offense more opportunities to put points on the board.
All three phases play a factor in the outcome of a game, just like any other week. I do play special teams sometimes, and there's a lot of hidden yards on special teams in terms of field position. Andy Lee had an excellent punt last week and it flipped the field for us defensively. Also, I was able to get the one punt return to set up our offense on their side of the field, so special teams has a big impact on the outcome of the game and we need a solid outing this week.
I know our offense can put up points. The thing our defense is focused on is getting them the ball – whether it's a turnover or getting off the field on third downs. That's our job, and we need to do it this week.