Falcons vs. 49ers: Two Players Flying Under The Radar For Each Team

Chris Graythen

Underrated players on both offense and defense in this Week 16 matchup for the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.

Fans know the rosters of their favorite teams inside and out, from the star quarterback to the practice squad defensive tackle. We see you, Adam Replogle.

When it comes to other teams, though, often we're so dazzled by the big names that we miss on out some of the lesser lights. With a team as deep as the 49ers, this is doubly true.

Fooch at Niners Nation was kind enough to provide one player on each side of the ball who you may not have heard of but should be impactful in this potentially lopsided game, and I've done the same for the Falcons. You'll find those below.

49ers Offense

Fooch: The 49ers lost fullback Bruce Miller to a fractured scapula last week against the Bucs. A fullback is often overlooked, but in the 49ers offense, Miller played an important role. He was Frank Gore's lead blocker, and a key weapon in the short passing game. The 49ers are looking at various options to replace him, but reserve running back Anthony Dixon could end up getting a fair share of Miller's work.

Dixon is a running back who has worked primarily as a special teams player. However, the last two seasons he has worked in training camp at the fullback role. He is a big back, so size is not an issue. He hasn't been all that involved in the passing game, so it remains to be seen how he'll contribute there.

We might see more of Vance McDonald, LaMichael James or others in that role, but Dixon will get plenty of chances.

49ers Defense

Fooch: The 49ers defense has a fairly high profile nature, but the guy to watch is defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie. He is a reserve lineman, but the 49ers use him in a variety of roles. He operates as the primary backup to nose tackle Glenn Dorsey. Additionally, he and Demarcus Dobbs rotate in to spell Justin Smith and Ray McDonald at the end positions in the team's 3-4 defense. Jerod-Eddie generally gets more snaps than Dobbs. TJE does generally solid work moving bodies and opening space for the linebackers. He's a 3-4 lineman in every sense.

Falcons Offense

Dave Choate: Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are the big names. Harry Douglas has put up some pretty numbers this season. Steven Jackson should be very familiar at running back, and we all know Matt Ryan. Who flies under the radar on this offense?

Maybe Drew Davis. This isn't a wide receiver who is going to soak up a ton of targets. He's only seen 14 passes thrown his way in 2013, after all. Yet when he gets opportunities, he's shown a knack for making a play. He's averaging 16.2 yards per catch on nine receptions, with 146 yards and two touchdowns. When the Falcons' other options are stymied, he can come up big, as was the case against a quality Arizona secondary earlier this year (5/77/1 touchdown on seven targets). With the Falcons in full-blown evaluation mode, expect Davis to find a few passes heading his way, and he may just surprise you.

Falcons Defense

Dave Choate: There's a few interesting choices here, given how many rookies have been playing and the kind of impact they've been having. Paul Worrilow is a UDFA piling up tackles, Malliciah Goodman has been very good at setting the edge and defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters never get the love they deserve.

Still an easy pick. You've probably heard of Desmond Trufant, but you may not be aware just how good he's been this season. Pro Football Focus has him as the 11th best cornerback in the NFL, and he has 18 pass deflections, a team rookie record. His coverage skills have been stellar from the get-go, and quarterbacks are already actively avoiding his side of the field. You may not hear his name called on Monday night, but that's just because he's doing his job.

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