San Francisco 49ers offensive player to watch: RB Frank Gore

How he beats you: The seventh-year pro is on pace to have one of the finest seasons of his career. He has gained 674 yards and scored five touchdowns on 140 carries, a 4.8-yard average. He hits the hole hard, plows through and is difficult to tackle. He also has good ability to change directions quickly. “He’s got great balance, great leg drive. He’s got a low center of gravity, so he’s hard to stop,” Redskins linebacker Keyaron Fox says. Defensive end Stephen Bowen agrees. “He has great vision. You see him get through cracks that you don’t think anybody can get through. He keeps his feet moving. A lot of backs slow down at the point of attack, but he keeps moving,” Bowen says.

How to stop him: The main knock against Gore is durability. He has played a full season only once in his career. But when healthy, Gore is as well-rounded a back as they come. He is adept at blitz pickups. The key for the Redskins will be taking away running room and better tackling. They have missed far too many tackles the last few weeks. “We’ve got to do a good job of rallying to the ball,” Bowen says. “People need to be assignment sound. People aren’t always where they need to be upfront. You may get double-teamed, but it comes off and you need to stay in that gap.”

Bottom line: The Redskins are allowing 151 yards rushing per game, and their inability to slow teams on the ground has made it difficult for the defense to get off the field in a timely manner. Teams are able to string together long scoring drives, making opportunities for Washington’s already-struggling offense even fewer. The Redskins must hold Gore in check. The players say defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has had them put in extra work and they expect it will pay off. One other thing that could work in the Redskins’ favor is the fact that the 49ers run a less exotic offense than is featured by some of the other teams Washington has struggled against. They’re a smashmouth, straight ahead, play-action football team with much less misdirection. The Redskins have had difficulty when teams spread them out--which forces them to go small in the nickel package--and run at them. A more physical style of play is required this week, meaning more Redskins’ base packages, which have worked better for them.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.

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