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Key matchup: Niners interior offensive line vs. Lions DTs

Posted Sep 12 2012 1:59am

In today’s “Key Matchup,” PFW’s Dan Arkush focuses on the Niners' interior

offensive line vs. the Lions DTs in this Sunday’s Nike NFL Jerseys nationally televised primetime

game in San Francisco.

Niners interior offensive line (OLG Mike Iupati, C Jonathan Goodwin and ORG Alex

Boone) vs. Lions DTs Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Nick Fairley

The Lions’ banged-up secondary could be facing a huge challenge this Sunday

evening going up against an improved Niners passing attack with new key weapons

such as WRs Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. What could help the Lions DBs

considerably is the same kind of collective pressure that the Detroit DT trio of

Suh, Williams and Fairley provided in Detroit’s Week One come-from-behind win

over the upstart Rams.

No doubt helped somewhat by the foot injury that forced Rams C Scott Wells out of

the season opener, Suh, New England Patriots Jersey Williams and Fairey each had sacks in Week One, with

Williams also adding a forced fumble. Their matchup against the Niners’ trio of

Iupati, Goodwin and Boone could be a bit more taxing.

Consider the job the Niners’ interior O-line did last Sunday on Packers NT B.J.

Raji, the second-ranked NFC DT in the PFW 2012 Preview Magazine player rankings

behind Suh.

Raji put a fair amount of pressure on Goodwin but tailed off in the second half.

He had far less success with Boone, who made a convincing case for the Niners’

decision to make him the new starter at right guard this season with a quietly

efficient effort in Green Bay. Not only were the Niners very effective running to

Boone’s side; Boone also moved Raji out of Niners QB Alex Smith’s throwing lane

on Smith’s TD pass to Moss.

Entering the league as an undisciplined, out-of-shape undrafted rookie, Boone has

transformed his body and cleaned New Orleans Saints Jersey up his act, doing a commendable job converting to

an unfamiliar position.

Iupati was solid last season but came nowhere close to reaching his first-round

potential. But he is emerging as an enforcer and has become a master at the trap

block. A really mellow fellow off the field, Iupati is the polar opposite on the

field, possessing a very mean streak. He has great size, long arms and hands and a

very strong upper body with outstanding functional playing strength. He’s also a

strong drive blocker who carries his weight well, and his combination of size,

brute strength, mobility and arm length make him an up-and-coming left guard of

the highest order.

Goodwin was referred to by head coach Jim Harbaugh as a “block of granite” last

season. The 33-year-old ex-Saint is a quiet, low-key workhorse who offers great

maturity. Goodwin started all 16 games last season and did a great job

communicating calls and understanding defenses.

After a tremendous rookie campaign with 10 sacks and 66 tackles, Suh came crashing

down to earth last season with only four sacks and 36 tackles in 14 games. He

missed two games after being suspended for trying to carve a hole in the chest of

Packers OL Evan Dietrich-Smith with his spikes in an embarrassing Thanksgiving Day

performance last season. Suh also was not nearly at his best against the Niners in

Week Six last season, when he had only two assists in San Francisco’s 25-19

victory — a game in which the Niners ran wild (203 rushing yards).

But most league observers still consider Suh a rare talent with outstanding

natural tools, and he got his 2012 season off to a decent start against the Rams.

Williams is a steady starter with good quickness and power.

Fairley, a first-rounder like Suh, was bothered by a foot injury as a rookie but

showed major promise at times.

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