Typically in our weekly Matchup to Watch, there are a couple of star players matching up that fans of both teams are familiar with. Often times, these rivalries have been built over the years or one player is so dominant that keeping him neutralized becomes a focal point of the game-planning process. But this week's Matchup to Watch pits Brian Robison and Adam Snyder – a pair of players that fans of one of the two teams likely have little to no idea who the other player is.
The Vikings have seen their depth at defensive end depleted with injuries to Darrion Scott and Erasmus James and the four-game suspension of Ray Edwards. Robison, who is second on the Vikings' squad with 4.5 sacks despite playing part-time, is being pushed into the spotlight. The same can be said for Snyder. A third-year player with limited starting experience, Snyder was pushed into the starting lineup due to an injury to starter Jonas Jennings at left tackle. So problematic are the woes of the 49ers offensive line, in last week's game, the team had just seven offensive linemen on the 53-man roster – leaving just two reserves behind the starting five. As a result, the 49ers linemen are asked to play every snap of every game and they can be worn down.
The scouting report on Snyder is that he has shown a lot of improvement as a run blocker, but struggles in pass protection, especially when faced with a defensive end that can bring a speed rush to the table. That is what Robison has built his reputation on during his rookie season.
The other big issue is that, unlike injured starter Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer is a glacier in the backfield when dropping to pass. If the route isn't open that he's looking for, he's not going to run. He's a statue in the pocket and is susceptible to blitzes and end rushers. Robison has already shown a penchant for getting to quarterbacks from the blind side as well as reaching out and hitting the ball out of a QB's hand if he can't physically get to him with his body. It will be Snyder's job to bring his top game on every play, because Robison is expected to be coming on every pass play with a ferocity that never seems to dial down.
If both teams were at full strength, both Robison and Snyder would likely see minimal playing time, but with less than a month to play in the regular season, nobody is 100 percent healthy and team depth is tested on a weekly basis. That is why guys like Snyder and Robison fought their way through training camp and the preseason – trying to make an impression on the coaching staff so that, when a starter goes down, there is confidence that they can come off the bench and do the job. Because of that, two players that might not have been viewed as keys to either team's outlook at the beginning of the season have become the Week 14 Matchup to Watch.