One 49ers Star Presents ‘Problem’ for Philly DC, Eagles Insider Writes


Getty Brock Purdy hands it off to Christian McCaffrey on January 22, 2023 in Santa Clara.

Lincoln Financial Field will soon have two potential future NFL head coaches in 2023 with Jonathan Gannon of the Philadelphia Eagles and DeMeco Ryans of the San Francisco 49ers.

One of those defensive coordinators has a “problem” on their hands as The Athletic’s Bo Wulf described it on Tuesday, January 24. And the Eagles insider Wulf says it’s Gannon who has this to deal with: Figuring out how to neutralize Christian McCaffrey when the 49ers roll with this wrinkle on offense.

“Christian McCaffrey as a receiver will be a problem to solve for Gannon this week,” Wulf wrote in his preview of the NFC Championship game.

Wulf then gave telling details why “Run CMC” could be the biggest threat to Gannon’s schemes once 3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, January 29 arrives.

Gannon’s Defenses Has Struggled in This Area

While McCaffrey and the 49ers run game will soon face an Eagles run defense that placed 16th in yards allowed (average of 4.6 per carry), Gannon’s pass defense has surrendered the fewest yards in 2022 with 3,057.

But as Wulf points out, their success in denying the sky comes against facing the opposing No. 1 and No. 2 wide receiver — neither one of which is McCaffrey on the 49ers. Wulf reveals per Football Outsiders DVOA (Defense Adjusted Value Over Average) where Gannon’s defense struggles the most: Facing the “other” WR, which in this case is the versatile RB threat.

When the Eagles cover the top receiving option, they rank No. 2 in keeping their catches and yards bottled up, then rank No. 4 versus the second-best option. But outside of that, the Eagles rank No. 22 facing “other” receiving options. Even more telling, the Eagles are No. 24 per Football Outsiders DVOA when covering a running back out of the backfield.

The advantage immediately swings over to McCaffrey and head coach Kyle Shanahan, who will surely aim to test the Eagles’ ability to cover running/receiver threats. Since his arrival to S.F., McCaffrey has posted six games of catching six or more passes per Pro Football Reference. Including his time with the Carolina Panthers before the huge midseason trade, McCaffrey went on to catch 85 receptions for 741 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Not Just McCaffrey Who Could Disrupt Gannon’s Defense in This Scenario

It’s more than McCaffrey, though, that has the potential to disrupt the Eagles’ defensive plans.

There’s also Deebo Samuel, who’s his own “Run CMC” type as a “wide back.” Wulf also mentioned how Samuel can impact the NFC title game: When Samuel draws matchups with safety Reed Blankenship.

“Blankenship has really impressed and has the physicality to match up with the Niners offense, but the lack of speed we saw on that one Christian Watson touchdown in Week 12 [versus Green Bay] might cause some mid-week nightmares for Eagles fans with Deebo Samuel coming to town,” Wulf wrote.

Samuel, himself, has hit a stride during the 49ers’ march to their third NFC title game appearance since the 2019 season. Samuel has five games of catching six receptions or more per PFR and during the playoffs, has caught 10 passes for 178 yards and scored once while averaging 17.8 yards per catch.

In a contest featuring two ascending head coaching candidates lauded for their masterful tactics on defense, Sunday presents an even greater opportunity for the 49ers to unleash the two All-Pros on the NFC’s top seed with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

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