The tilt in San Francisco this Sunday between the Washington Redskins and the home 49ers stands to test the laws of the universe. Can the Redskins, who routinely match their opponents' effort with a marginally lesser effort, raise their game to almost beat a VERY good team? Let's find out together!
It is in this spirit that I introduce David Fucillo, the head honcho over at Niners Nation. Fooch, I promise to try just hard enough to make you look better throughout this whole glasnost thing we have going on this week. Going into the game, we decided to look at a few of each team's under the radar players.
49ers "Under the Radar" Players
OLB Aaron Lynch - He is becoming more and more well known, but it will be easy for Washington fans to overlook him this week with Aldon Smith back in the lineup. The 49ers used a fifth round pick on Lynch this past May, and he has been one of the biggest steals in the draft. He was viewed as a potential NFL talent heading into college at Notre Dame, but off the field issues resulted in a transfer to South Florida. He struggled there, and slipped into the fifth round. The 49ers used him primarily as a pass rusher earlier in the season, but have given him more time in their 3-4 in recent weeks. He has the size and speed to get to the quarterback, and the return of Aldon Smith likely means he will face more one-on-one matchups coming off the edge.
CB Dontae Johnson - The 49ers are thin at cornerback, which has resulted in this 2014 fourth round pick getting into the lineup. He will likely play the slot when the 49ers go into their nickel defense. He was a hybrid defensive back coming out of college, so the 49ers can potentially move him around as needed, but for now he'll be focusing on the slot. He was not mentioned frequently this past Sunday, which is usually a good thing for a cornerback. Additionally, he had the pass break-up that led to the final 49ers interception.
C Marcus Martin - The 49ers inserted the 2014 third round pick into the starting lineup after the bye, following their starter suffering a broken ankle. Martin got off to a tough start in his first game, with some poor blocking and bad snaps. However, since that first game, he has quickly come around. His shotgun snaps still need improvement, but overall he has turned into a very solid middle of the offensive line.
Redskins "Under the Radar" Players
OT Morgan Moses - The Redskins drafted Moses with the second pick in the third round pick in the 2014 draft, and the world rejoiced (or, just the Washington metro area). Despite passing on guys like Joel Bitonio and Cyrus Kouandjio, the Redskins landed an OL prospect that we felt we could all reasonably hope to see in the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Let me say the fanbase was less than thrilled to hear that Moses was "not there yet" as recently as the bye week (week 10). Once Trent Williams left the game last week against Tampa Bay with a knee injury, however, there was Moses at left tackle. He played as well anyone played...in a game where we lost to a ONE-WIN team. Given that the offensive line in DC has been atrocious for the better part of 15 years, the development of a tackle prospect is kind of a big deal. It appears that Williams' status is very doubtful for Sunday, so it would seem we will get to see and learn more about the rookie out of Virginia. It is not overstating things to suggest that the Redskins are desperate to prove Moses can be a starter in this league. The front office is under siege for certain...other...top draft pick decisions in recent years.
LB Keenan Robinson - I guess it is hard to continue to call this player an "under the radar" guy-he has been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week this season (hat tip to Chris Borland!). That said, playing in the burgundy and gold these days kind of automatically means you fly under the radar. He ranks in the top ten in the league in total tackles, and his athleticism at inside linebacker is a luxury. He is strong enough to stand up to the run in the middle, and he is fast enough to hang with most tight ends. This is his first full season in the league after being nagged by injuries, and the results are very encouraging. Any chance the Redskins have of competing on Sundays is largely driven by Robinson's ability to make plays. It is a lot to ask of a guy who is essentially stepping into the lineup to replace London Fletcher, but that is the nature of the league.
P Tress Way - Leave it to the Redskins to be good at the one thing that, if you're good at it, it probably means you stink. Tress Way has been at or near the top of all punting stats for most of the season. The rookie from Oklahoma has hit the league's longest punt of the season-a whopping 77-yards-and he leads the league in total average length. He has a great name..."Tress" just sounds like a punter. Every fan of a team loves when a rookie comes in and does well, because it implies that the position is "taken care of" for at least a few seasons. Redskins fans can't point to many positions that are "taken care of" these days. After all, how good can the core of a perpetually 3-6 team actually be? Better yet...don't answer that. It's bad enough I am pimping a punter in this space.