The 49ers will enter the final opening day at Candlestick Park with high expectations against the Green Bay Packers. One of the biggest questions marks for the Packers is on their offensive line.
Starting LT Bryan Bulaga was placed on the injured reserve in August after tearing his ACL. On the right side, the Packers first-round pick of 2011 Derek Sherrod is currently on the PUP after breaking his right leg two seasons ago. Coming in to fill those spots are 2013 fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari at left tackle and undrafted free agent Don Barclay at right tackle. Bakhtiari is the younger brother of former 49ers LB Eric Bakhtiari.
Aaron Rodgers will still make his passes and the offense will be prepared for the potential liability on the offensive line, but there is no reason for the front-seven to bring pressure. A good pass rush could lead to both fumbles and interceptions. In the 2012 season opener against Green Bay, Rodgers threw an interception to NaVorro Bowman which resulted in pressure. Tarell Brown also had a key interception in last year's Divisional Playoff meeting.
Pass rushing has been one of the best pieces of the 49ers defense. The front-seven are expected to be more stacked than last season with the additions of Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta as reserve OLBs. The 49ers had only Clark Haggans backing up starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks in 2012.
When Justin Smith tore his triceps late last season, Aldon Smith failed to record a sack and delivered a minimal amount of pressure throughout the games. He set a single-season franchise record of 19.5 sacks, but didn't record one in the last six games, including three in the postseason. Besides Justin Smith playing through his injury, Aldon Smith played through a torn labrum in his shoulder and had surgery last spring. This Sunday's game is where both players will be back to full force and there are no excuses.
The run defense has consistently been a strength of the 49ers and it could be even better with Ian Williams being the starting NT. After spending two years mostly inactive on the 53-man roster, the 49ers have developed him when they were prepared to lose Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois via free agency. The interior of the offensive line is the only strength of the Packers, but the 49ers shouldn't have a problem stopping rookie RBs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin as well as four-year veteran James Starks.
Whether it's Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Corey Lemonier or Dan Skuta, the outside linebackers should be able to take advantage of an inexperienced group of offensive tackles on the Packers.