Three and Out: Will Justin Smith be the 49ers' difference maker?
Editor's note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Seahawks matchups to watch Sunday, 5:30 p.m., at CenturyLink Field
49ers NT Ian Williams vs. Seahawks C Max Unger
Tale of the tape
Williams (93): 6 foot 1, 305 pounds, third season, Notre Dame
Unger (60): 6 foot 5, 305 pounds, fifth season, Oregon
It will be second game of Ian Williams' career in which he is the team’s first-string nose tackle. But Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks will be the first time Williams figures to have a significant workload.
Williams’ first game as the starting nose tackle wasn’t exactly a starting assignment. After all, he played just 10 snaps of defense. The reason is because the Green Bay Packers featured mostly three- and four-receiver sets. When the 49ers go with extra defensive backs, the nose tackle comes off the field.
But the 49ers expect to be in their base defense approximately half the game Sunday night, as the Seahawks will be more determined to run the ball with Marshawn Lynch.
Williams, who beat out veteran Glenn Dorsey for the starting job with a strong training camp, will have an important matchup in the middle of the field against first-team All-Pro center Max Unger, who has started all 49 career games in which he has appeared.
Williams will be entrusted with stuffing the middle and allowing inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis to roam free and make plays. The 49ers have experienced difficulty in recent seasons against Lynch, who has recorded three consecutive games of more than 100 yards rushing against the 49ers.
“He’s a great player,” Williams said. “He’s real fast, sideline-to-sideline. He’s an athletic guy. I’ve never played against him, so I can’t speculate too much.”
He takes over for Isaac Sopoaga as the 49ers’ main nose tackle and spending most of his first two season inactive as he developed under the tutelage of 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. The departures of Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois gave Williams the opportunity to work his way into the starting lineup.
But Willis said Williams’ style reminds him of another former 49ers nose tackle: Aubrayo Franklin. A 49ers starter from 2007 to 2010, Frankin was the team’s franchise player in 2010.
"In just being able to move, real low center of gravity, real strong at the point," Willis said.
Williams signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Although Franklin was not around, Williams said he studied his film to help him learn the responsibilities of the nose tackle in the 49ers' defense.
Said Williams, "If I'm half the player that Aubrayo Franklin was, I can help this team out."
Williams dropped 25 pounds in the offseason and is much quicker and explosive.