Editor's note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three 49ers-Titans matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
[MATCHUP NO. 3: Patrick Willis vs. Delanie Walker]
[MATCHUP NO. 2: Frank Gore vs. Bernard Pollard]
49ers NT Tony Jerod-Eddie vs. Titans C Brian Schwenke
Tale of the tape
Jerod-Eddie (63): 6 foot 5, 301 pounds, second season, Texas A&M
Schwenke (62): 6 foot 3, 318 pounds, rookie, California
Tony Jerod-Eddie was on the bubble at the final cuts. And his spot might not be totally secure when 49ers activate as many as seven players off reserve lists through the remainder of the season.
But on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, Jerod-Eddie will not be an under-the-radar contributor. He’ll be a vital member of the 49ers’ defense.
Jerod-Eddie will start and play on most base downs at nose tackle, as the 49ers have been forced to test their depth in the center of their defensive line.
Ian Williams won the 49ers’ starting job at nose tackle to open the season, but he sustained a season-ending fractured ankle on Seattle offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy’s legal cut block in Week 2.
Veteran Glenn Dorsey stepped into the lineup, and the run defense did not miss a beat. But Dorsey had to exit the lineup last week when he sustained a right hamstring strain in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals.
[RELATED: Dorsey questionable for Titans game]
So, now, the duty of clogging the middle in the 49ers’ base defense falls to Jerod-Eddie, who joined the 49ers last season as an undrafted free agent. He spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad before getting the call-up to the 53-man roster for the final game of the regular season. The 49ers also activated rookie nose tackle Quinton Dial off the reserve/non-football injury list on Saturday. Dial had been sidelined after undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments and tendons in his toe.
[RELATED: 49ers activate Dial to shored up D-line]
But the 49ers will rely heavily on Jerod-Eddie. This season, he was inactive in Week 2, but the 49ers decided to stick with him over veteran Will Tukuafu. Jerod-Eddie has played well in five games as a backup with 14 tackles. He has also recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass against Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.
Jerod-Eddie figures to be the focus of a Titans offense that will be looking for holes to exploit in the 49ers’ front seven.
The Titans are not going to win many games when running back Chris Johnson is held in check. And that is exactly what happened in the past three games.
Johnson, who ranks third in Titans/Houston Oilers history in rushing behind Eddie George and Earl Campbell, has gained just 71 yards on 37 rushing attempts over a three-game stretch.
“We’re not creating a big enough push where you can run away from that extra guy that’s free or whatever it is,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “It’s a combination of things. You can’t single out one person. If you single out one person, it’s an easy fix.”
In an attempt to breathe some life into their run game, the Titans did single out one guy. Center Rob Turner, a six-year veteran, was benched in favor of Brian Schwenke, a fourth-round pick. Schwenke gets his first career starting assignment on Sunday after being inactive for the Titans’ first six games.
The Titans will start rookies side-by-side on the offensive line with Schwenke and right guard Chance Warmack, a first-round pick from Alabama.