As the 49ers prepare to do battle with their toughest opponent of the 2022 season in the Maryland Terrapins, a lot of questions, understandably, surround the questionable defense that has been played coming into a season. However, there seems to be one missing piece on the 49er offense that may be holding them back on that side of the ball; that is their tight end room, or lack thereof.
It can be understood with receivers like Victor Tucker, Grant DuBose, Elijah Spencer, Trey Blount, etc. that the receiving unit is pretty solidified, but the guys that always seem to find themselves open on short yardage situations are guys like Taylor Thompson and Jake Clemons.
There is no doubt that the talent in the wide receiver room probably has the most talent in C-USA, but let’s not forget that as a high school prospect, Thompson was a 3-star composite receiver based on 247’s rankings, as well as the number two tight end in the state of Alabama coming out of Prattville.
Another redshirt sophomore alongside Thompson is Jake Clemons, who got the starting nod this week based on the 2-deep roster, is a 6’6 250 pound tight end who is very versatile and can make key blocks as well as get hard-fought catches.
You can’t help but feel like if the 49ers started utilizing their entire “receiving” unit, then they would find even more success on offense. It won’t necessarily change anything on defense which is probably what the 49ers need most right now, however it takes baby steps not giant leaps in the right direction. This would be one of those steps.
Now, let’s quickly break down this game.
This is, and quite possibly will have been Charlotte’s toughest offense that they will play against this year and in years prior. Sure, the Western Kentucky offenses of recent memory come to mind that might have had something to say about this comment, but I will stick to it.
To start, their quarterback, Taulia Tagovailoa, is one of the top QBs in football. He has a great arm, similar to his brother Tua who played at Alabama before getting drafted into the NFL by the Miami Dolphins. He set several Maryland program records a season ago and will be looking for even more this year.
Maryland has won five consecutive games against non-conference opponents, their last loss coming against Temple in 2019. It won’t be easy for Charlotte to slow down the Terp’s offense by any means, but let’s quickly take a look at just what the 49ers need to do to knock off their second power five teams in as many years.
Utilize their tight ends
It was the lead-in to this piece, and it is number one on the keys to success, use the weapons that you have at your disposal. Thompson and Clemons will be ready when their number is called. They consistently find the “sweet spot” in opposing defenses in that 4-8 yard zone either just in front or behind the linebackers. Go to them, and go to them more often. You don’t need the homerun ball every snap.
Defense needs to be better, period
Just point to something recently on the 49ers defense and there is a problem. Regardless if it is the secondary giving up huge pass plays, blown coverage, missed tackles, not getting pressure on the quarterback; I think you get the point. Healy isn’t naive to this reality, but he knows that it takes everyone buying in, and if they aren’t doing that, to a degree it is out of his control.
“It’s a group effort,” Healy mentioned. “I think every group has something that they can improve on drastically.”
“Why do I feel like we’ve got a chance; because we’ve got great dudes in the locker room,” Healy said. “Just sitting up here listening to his (Grant DuBose) growth and where he is heading is fun to be a part of. I am not going to lose sight of that because of a record. Good things are coming for our program.”
There you have it, don’t lose confidence in the team because there can be great things in store for them in the near future.
Looking to gameday
Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm on Stadium this upcoming Saturday. Maryland is quite the favorite coming in with a 27.5-point spread. Tune in to Stadium or ESPN 730 The Game as Matt Swierad and Al Wallace will be on the call, with the one and only Bobby Rosinski down on the sidelines.