Jan 14, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois (95) celebrates after the game against the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park. San Francisco defeated New Orleans 36-32. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

49ers: All Eyes on Ricky Jean-Francois

As the San Francisco 49ers get ready for their Super Bowl run, one thing remains unclear, defensive end Justin Smith’s status. The player known as Cowboy, is arguably the MVP of the defense, and without his services would greatly alter their game-plan.

However, the show must go on, and other players need to step-up. One player in particular is Ricky Jean-Francois. A seventh round-draft pick in 2009, Jean-Francois has been primarily regulated to backup duties since entering the league.

However, things change daily in the NFL, and Jean-Francois recently has been finding himself starting in Cowboy’s absence.

Jean-Francois finished the 2012 regular season with a career-year by racking up career-highs in both tackles (22) and sacks (2). It may not be eye popping stats, but nonetheless he’s slowly staking his claim.

In his last three games, Jean-Francois has registered 14 tackles and two sacks. I don’t believe it’s by coincidence his stats have drastically improved due to more playing time. The kid can play, he just needed his opportunity.

I’ve been covering Jean-Francois since his days at LSU, and one thing that stood out to me was his quickness. He was deceptively quick in getting off the ball and that trait has certainly carried over in the pros.

Injuries are an everyday occurrence in the NFL, but what separates the good teams from the great teams is depth. The Niners have plenty of it, and if they hope to hoist that Lombardi trophy in February, Jean-Francois will certainly need to pick up his game and get the job done.

Tags: Justin Smith Ricky Jean Francois San Francisco 49ers

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