The losses of right tackle Phil Loadholt and center John Sullivan are major storylines heading into the Vikings’ season opener Monday night. Questions that weren’t as pressing before the preseason — “How many times will the 49ers sack Teddy Bridgewater?” — are now at the forefront of game previews and predictions as the start of the regular season draws closer.
Like others who follow and cover the team, my concerns are legitimate given the 49ers’ depth along the defensive line and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini’s penchant for blitzing opposing quarterbacks. Teddy Bridgewater could very well be in trouble Monday night, but Norv Turner will find ways to keep his quarterback upright, whether that means employing a quick-hitting pass attack with three-step drops or running the hurry-up to keep the defense off balance.
If there’s a quarterback who’s going to struggle Monday night, it’s going to be Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers’ signal caller continues to frustrate an impatient San Francisco fan base, as noted by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Kevin Lynch:
“The most glaring observation,” he wrote, “(was) Kaepernick’s inability to step up when he’s pressured. Often his first reaction to pressure was either to step sideways or backwards, not up in the pocket.”
Kaepernick’s lack of pocket presence led to 52 sacks last year, and one Vikings defensive end looks to add to those totals on Monday night: Everson Griffen.