Kwon Alexander made his much anticipated return to the field last week after sitting out with a torn pectoral for 10 weeks. The star linebacker didn’t suffer a setback, but 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco explained on KNBR Tuesday why we might see less of him in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.
“I would suspect in this game against the Packers they’re not going to be in their base defense nearly as much as they were vs. the Vikings,” Maiocco said of the 49ers. “So the 49ers have to make the decision this week and I think it’s a bigger decision this week than it was last week. I think last week it made sense that if the team you’re playing is going to be in base personnel a lot, or with two backs and two tight ends, then go ahead and work Alexander back in slowly and keep (Dre) Greenlaw as the every down linebacker alongside (Fred) Warner.”
The 49ers are likely to have just two or fewer linebackers on the field Sunday, as the Packers frequently use three and four wide receiver sets, something the Vikings, a more run heavy team, rarely do. Before Alexander’s injury, he and Warner were the starters in the nickel package. But with Alexander not quite 100 percent, and Greenlaw coming into his own, the rotation on Sunday could be a bit different.
“This week they have a decision to make because that third linebacker isn’t going to be on the field nearly as much. Do you split up the third down plays between whoever is going to be alongside Warner? Or do you give it all to Greenlaw or all to Alexander? That’s something I think Robert Saleh is going to have to decide this week is how you’re going to break up that playing time between Greenlaw and Alexander.”
Alexander didn’t record a tackle in his return last weekend. Greenlaw had four including one for loss.