Ricky Jean Francois had big shoes to fill on Sunday.
Filling in for injured left defensive tackle Ray McDonald, who rested his injured hamstring, Jean Francois posted four tackles in his second start of the season.
Jean Francois started previously against the Buccaneers as the 49ers starting nose tackle, and once again, the 49ers super sub came off the bench to make sure his team’s vaunted rushing defense didn’t fall off from its typical stingy production.
Jean Francois has two starts in the team’s streak of 30 games without allowing an individual 100-yard rusher. It’s an achievement not lost on the third-year player, who was expecting a heavy dose of Redskins rushes to his direction.
“(Defensive line coach Jim) Tomsula prepared me for that,” shared Jean Francois inside the 49ers locker room on Monday. “(Tomsula) said, ‘They’re going to run the ball at you, hands down.’
“He said he didn’t know how they were going to run at you, but the ball is coming at you. Either you’re going to show you can hold it down or they’re going to keep running and running at you.”
Washington’s rookie running back Roy Helu picked up 16 yards on the game’s first play from scrimmage, a run directed right at Jean Francois to see if he could hold his ground against numerous blockers.
Jean Francois didn’t fret about the gain. Instead, he made sure to confer with veterans and coaches on the sideline on what adjustments he needed to make.
That’s when McDonald and ironman 49ers right defensive tackle Justin Smith (163 consecutive starts) offered their expertise in real-time.
“Once I got to the sideline after the first drive and talked to Justin and Ray to see what type of adjustments I needed to make, it was cool after that,” Jean Francois said. “Everything flowed naturally.”
Helu picked up 40 yards on 9 first-half carries. The next 30 minutes, however, Helu wasn’t a factor at all in the running game. He carried the ball once in the second half, a 1-yard run.
Instead of factoring in the running game, Helu was used as a dump-off option for Redskins quarterback John Beck, who completed 14 passes to Helu, a Washington franchise record.
Jean Francois, a big supporter of his alma mater Louisiana State, said his school’s big win over Alabama on Saturday actually fueled his play on Sunday.
That, and several 49ers fans were chanting his name along with “LSU!” during pregame warm-ups at FedEx Field.
“That was all I needed to hear to go out and play,” Jean Francois said with a big grin.
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