The San Francisco 49ers will face a pair of talented rookies this Sunday at Levi's® Stadium.
In case you've been under a rock this week or haven't checked Twitter or read a newspaper – the aforementioned players would be fourth overall pick Ezekiel Elliott and 135th overall selection Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys.
The running back and quarterback of San Francisco's Week 4 opponent have gotten off to impressive starts to their respective NFL careers.
Elliott is tied for second amongst all rushers with 274 rushing yards. Prescott ranks 13th at his position with a 93.3 passer rating.
"We're putting the game plan together, understanding they do have a mobile quarterback, but we're not going to point everything towards that," NaVorro Bowman, the leader of the 49ers defense, said on Thursday. "We still have to play honest defense."
With Pro Bowl wideout Dez Bryant dealing with a hairline fracture in his knee, the 49ers could see even more runs from Elliott and backup Alfred Morris.
"(Prescott) is still a rookie quarterback so the run game opens everything up for quarterbacks like him," Bowman said. "I'm sure that'll be an emphasis on trying to get the run game opened up so Dak can be comfortable back there in the pocket."
All of this means Bowman and the 49ers defense won't take the NFL newcomers lightly. For Dallas, the running attack is the featured portion of the offense. It ranks sixth in the league, while the passing game is 16th-best among 32 clubs.
Bowman complimented Dallas' offensive line as one of the best groups in the league. The linebacker said he expects to see a heavy dose of Elliott, which will then set things up for Prescott.
"He's on the verge of becoming a good back in this league if he can hold onto the ball," Bowman said of the rookie who has lost one of two fumbles this season.
When asked if stripping Elliott would be a point of emphasis in Sunday's game, Bowman said, "There are always opportunities. You just have to do it at the right time. That's definitely a key, to make sure he's securing the ball correctly."
After corralling Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley at home in Week 1 (17 carries, 47 yards), San Francisco surrendered back-to-back 100-yard rushing games to Carolina Panthers backup Fozzy Whitaker (16 carries, 100 yards) and Seattle Seahwks runner Christine Michael (20 carries, 106 yards and two touchdowns).
Bowman said the defensive unit has identified correctable mistakes that should be fixed in time for the game against Dallas.
"We've put the time in the meeting room to get things right and make those corrections," the defensive leader said. "We have to make sure we execute everything on Sunday."
San Francisco's defense has faced a similar runner throughout the offseason in their very own Pierre Garçon. Like Elliott, Hyde starred at Ohio State and is well-versed in the zone-read run game.
Bowman knows the running backs will be looking to out-perform each other in their first NFL meeting.
"Carlos had him underneath his wing at Ohio State, so he can't let the young guy get the best of the game," Bowman said. "I think Carlos will be holding this one (close) to his heart."