The San Francisco 49ers face a tall order in Week 13 when they travel to face the Baltimore Ravens. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is playing football at an insane level, offering up a variety of looks through the air and on the ground. He’s won AFC offensive player of the week three of the past four weeks, and is the heavy favorite to win NFL MVP.
In weekly preparations, NFL teams have a scout team that are entrusted with providing looks similar to what the team might expect to see on Sunday. The scout team helps the offense and defense prepare for Sunday and hopefully be in position to take advantage of various tendencies and game plans.
One of the more amusing questions this season is who exactly a team can get to imitate Lamar Jackson in practice. The Rams used practice squad quarterback John Wolford last week. Previously the Bengals used Andy Dalton and practice squad receivers. This week, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said wide receiver Richie James would handle the role, per beat writer Jennifer Lee Chan.
Rams head coach Sean McVay had a chance to comment on the difficulty of defending Jackson after the QB’s five touchdown performance on Monday Night Football (via Pro Football Talk).
“You can’t truly simulate that, especially when you look at just what a great job they do of creating the conflict,” coach Sean McVay told reporters after the game. “When you look at when it is some of those gives downhill, those things hit faster on the second and third levels. Then when Lamar does pull it on some of those zone-read plays, he’s got the ability to get around you and then what he can do as a runner, just feeling space, because you’re not tackling during the week, those do make it very, very difficult to simulate those types of things.”
The 49ers defense is surging of late and looked great against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last week. Unfortunately for them, Lamar Jackson is a whole different kind of quarterback. His worst passing game of this season came against Pittsburgh. The Ravens won in overtime in spite of day in which Jackson threw for 171 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. He did rush for 70 yards, but the 49ers will likely study that tape in particular heading into Sunday’s game.