View Full Version : Week 1 - Cardinals
09-02-2008, 11:05 AM
For the third consecutive season the San Francisco 49ers will open the season against their divisional rival, the Arizona Cardinals.
The 49ers swept the series with the Cardinals in 2007 in two highly competitive contests that came down to the wire.
The first was played out on Monday night football when the 49ers came from behind to get the victory, thanks to an end around for a touchdown by Arnaz Battle in the final seconds.
Their last meeting occured in Arizona in an overtime road victory for the 49ers. The hard fought game came to a close with a Ron Fields sack of Kurt Warner, and a forced fumble that was recovered in the end zone by linebacker Tully Banta-Cain for a touchdown.
The 49ers will see Warner this weekend as following their final preseason game against the Broncos, head coach Ken Whisenhunt named the veteran as the starter over third-year quarterback Matt Leinart.
Warner started 11 games in 2007, helping Arizona to a fifth rated passing offense, while tossing 27 touchdowns, one shy of an Arizona franchise record.
Arizona continues to boast one of the better receiving tandems for Warner to aim for in Pro Bowl receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. However, they did lose their third wideout in Bryant Johnson to the 49ers and still seem to be searching for his replacement.
Rookie Early Doucet could be the long term answer, but the third-round pick out of LSU missed two weeks of camp with a hamstring injury.
In this week one matchup the 49ers can expect to see a mix between Jerheme Urban and Steve Breaston.
Arizona’s offensive line looks to be without its starting center in Al Johnson. Johnson missed all but the first two days of camp after having surgery to clean up his knee. He’s been replaced in the starting lineup by Lyle Sendlein.
Outside of center it’s the same returning group as last year. Levi Brown starts at right tackle, working next to Deuce Lutui, who fended off Elton Brown for his spot at right guard. Reggie Wells will start at left guard, and should be book ended by left tackle Mike Gandy. Gandy suffered a bone bruise in his knee in the preseason finale but returned to action, and practiced on Monday.
Wells is expected to take some snaps at center this week in case of an emergency situation. If he did have to fill in there, Elton Brown would likely start in his place. If Gandy can’t go, the 49ers could either see Elton, who started five games at right tackle in 2007, Brandon Keith, a seventh-round draft pick out of Northern Iowa, or Elliot Vallejo, a former undrafted free agent out of UC Davis in 2007.
Although running back Edgerrin James has not put up the kind of yards he enjoyed during his Pro Bowl seasons in Indy, James finished the 2007 season with 1,222 yards and was named a Pro Bowl alternate. He's more of a cutback runner, and he can get big gains if he gets the edge, but his prancing sometimes leads to big losses too.
Terrelle Smith returns for his second year as a true blocking fullback while Tim Castille seems to be getting his number dialed in the passing attack. Castille finished the preseason with 9 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown, good for the second most catches on the team.
Tight end Jerame Tuman followed his former Steelers offensive coordinator to the desert, giving the Cardinals an upgrade in their run blocking. Leonard Pope is more of a passing threat, although both tight ends have been used in a double tight end set in the run game.
Defensively, the Cardinals lost one of their playmakers at linebacker in Calvin Pace, but they added Clark Haggans from the Steelers, and a pass rushing specialist in Travis Laboy from Tennessee.
Laboy edged out former Pro Bowl end in Bertrand Berry for the starting spot at end. Arizona has referred to this position as their predator, as Laboy will line up with his hand on the ground at times or stand up and rush off the edge.
Antonio Smith starts at the other end with Pro Bowler Darnell Dockett working inside. Their other inside starter for the season should be Gabe Watson, but he's been out the last several months after fracturing his knee cap while running on a treadmill. Watson is expected to return to practice this week, but did not do so on Monday and his game day availability is unknown at this time. Bryan Robinson, an off-season free agent acquisition from the Bengals started three preseason games, but worked behind second-year Alan Branch in the Cardinals final preseason game against Denver. Branch left the game with an ankle injury and did not practice on Monday, so the 49ers could see any one of the three this Sunday.
The Cardinals are solid at linebacker with Haggans, Chike Okeafor, Gerald Hayes, and Karlos Dansby, and allow for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to run a hybrid defense that mixes in both the 4-3 and 3-4.
The secondary was a weak spot for Arizona last year, leading to their first overall pick in the draft being used on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of Tennessee State. DRC as they call him was slowed in camp with an ankle injury, but it seems Arizona is very upbeat about their top pick’s potential. He will likely start in their nickel package, although Arizona could rely instead on veteran Ralph Brown.
Their starting lineup in the secondary last week included Roderick Hood and Eric Green at the two corner spots, and Antrell Rolle and Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson as safeties.
Playing safety marks a new role for Rolle, a former first-round pick who played primarily in the nickel package last year. His 2007 season was his best as he swiped five interceptions and returned three of them for touchdowns.
Wilson is back from last year's season-ending heel injury, and looks to build on his career 16 interceptions and 16 sacks.
On special teams, Arizona went after veteran punter Dirk Johnson this off-season after their experiment last year with Mike Barr, who was kept in favor of the veteran Scott Player, led to some inconsistency in their kicking game. Neil Rackers returns as the team’s place kicker, while Nathan Hodel remains as their long snapper. J.J. Arrington, Steve Breaston and Jermene Urban were all used as returners in the preseason, with Arrington recording a long kickoff return of 78 yards.
09-02-2008, 11:06 AM
49ers Head Coach Mike Nolan and Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt, strength and conditioning coach John Lott, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and running backs coach Maurice Carthon all coached together on the New York Jets staff in 2000…Nolan also coached with Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm with the Washington Redskins from 1997-99…Cardinals linebackers coach Billy Davis was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2005-06…49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky played for the Washington Redskins at linebacker from 1988-90 with Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm…Cardinals RB coach Maurice Carthon has coached with a number of 49er coaches. He coached running backs with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003-04 with 49ers offensive line coach George Warhop… 49ers Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz coached at Arizona St. from 1982-84, and again from 1986-1991. … Martz coached quarterbacks for the Washington Redskins in 1997, where current Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm. … 49ers TE coach Pete Hoener coached TEs for the cardinals in ’01 and ’02 and offensive line in ’03. … 49ers offensive line coach George Warhop coached the Cardinals offensive line from 1999-02 before Hoener took over.
Former 49ers Players
DE Chike Okeafor spent the first four years of his career with the 49ers after being drafted in the third round (89th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft.
Former Cardinals Players
WR Bryant Johnson was originally drafted by the Cardinals with their first-round selection in the 2003 draft…K Joe Nedney spent three seasons with the Cardinals from 1997-99…G/C Tony Wragge was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cardinals in 2002…Wragge spent two seasons with the Cardinals from 2002-03.
49er Cardinal Player Connections Cardinals DE Bertrand Berry played at Notre Dame with KR/PR Allen Rossum under Hall of Fame Coach Lou Holtz … Ari. G Elton Brown and 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks were both All-Americans at Virginia … Cardinals T Levi Brown blocked for 49ers WR Bryant Johnson and RB Michael Robinson at Penn State when he was a QB there… Cardinals G/T Mike Gandy blocked for 49ers WR Arnaz Battle at Notre Dame … 49ers G David Baas played at Michigan with Cardinals DT Gabe Watson, DT Alan Branch and WR Steve Breaston … Cardinals RB J.J. Arrington played with 49ers LB Tully Banta-Cain at Cal … Ari. CB Antrel Rolle played at Miami (Fl.) with RB Frank Gore … P Andy Lee and CB Shawntae Spencer played at Pittsburgh with Ari. WR Larry Fitzgerald … Cardinals DE Antonio Smith played with 49ers TE Billy Bajema at Oklahoma St. … New Cardinals DE Travis LaBoy played on the same D-Line together at Hawaii … G Chilo Rachal played as a redshirt freshman with Cardinals QB Matt Leinart and G Deuce Lutui … Ari. C Lyle Sendlein played for National Champion Texas with 49ers CB Tarrell Brown … 49ers LS Brian Jennings played with Cardinals FB Terrelle Smith at Arizona St. … WR Jason Hill played at Washington State with Cardinals TE Troy Bienemann
09-03-2008, 08:33 PM
Just put Mrob at QB and let him throw to BJ - :ref: All day
09-05-2008, 10:54 AM
Points of the Game, Arizona print
September 04, 2008
Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR analysis and color commentator Gary Plummer is back again this year with his Points of the Game, a weekly online column that previews the upcoming opponent. Check out his thoughts about Sunday’s season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
I watched two preseason games of Arizona’s and Kurt Warner looked great. He is a competitor and is a guy who lit the 49ers up for 400 passing yards last year. Just reading the statistics on Warner, he had more passing touchdowns in the second half of the season than Tom Brady. There’s a lot left in the tank for Kurt Warner.
For the 49ers, the good news is nobody other than his wife knows him better than offensive coordinator Mike Martz. I’m sure the 49ers defensive staff has picked Martz’s brain, not just this week, but really they started working on Arizona months ago. I’m sure there are some inside things that Martz knows that will be helpful to the 49ers defensive staff.
On opening day, I’m curious to see what kind of play the Cardinals get from their starting offensive line. They’ve been doing some shuffling up front with their center and that’s a tough position. I think that’s one of the reasons Eric Heitmann is so respected at the 49ers, it all starts with the center. You can’t have a play without the snap. And the center has to be a great communicator. You hear over and over from the offensive linemen on the 49ers about how good Heitmann is at communicating. For Arizona, with a new guy in there in Lyle Sendlein, it might be tough. He has started throughout the preseason, but he’s not their starter like Al Johnson. Had Johnson been able to make it back, it would have been the same five guys in there starting for Arizona, which hasn’t happened in Arizona in decades. So, that’s good news for the 49ers. Especially with 49ers defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin playing as well as he did in the preseason. It’s the second year now in this defense, and what we saw a little bit in the preseason was that pocket collapsing. It was a great thing to watch, and I think that’s something that Sendlein is going to have to deal with.
Offensively for Arizona, you don’t want to downplay the role of Edgerrin James, but in my mind, you have to take care of Warner. I don’t think James has the ability to beat you by himself anymore.
Last year we saw an awful lot of defensive pressure from one side, and it’s easy for a quarterback to avoid that by stepping up in the pocket or sliding to the side. This year in the preseason, we’ve seen pressure from both sides and a collapsing of the pocket. It’s been textbook. Even if the sacks don’t happen, and I think they will since they averaged three per game in the preseason, having people around Warner is going to make a big difference.
Back to James though. One of the benefits of being a veteran player like he is, is that you become more patient. With him, it looks like he’s a little too patient these days. They run a lot of stretch plays where he looks for a hole and it doesn’t look like he’s decisive enough. I think this year they are going to run a few more power runs, whether those are power runs off tackle or lead plays just to change it up. That’s really the strength of a Russ Grimm offensive line and a Ken Whisenhunt offense, and so I could see them changing it up. That will be interesting to see if James can make that adjustment.
Last season when these teams met, my fondest memory was watching Anquan Boldin back down from Nate Clements. It was apparent from the press box 100 yards away. You have the smart guy on one side with Walt Harris and the physical guy in Clements on the other side and that’s a great matchup. Plus last year, there was always that concern for that third receiver, Bryant Johnson. Even if you shut down their two big receivers, there was always that worry that Johnson can beat you. Right now, they are still searching for a replacement. Early Doucet hasn’t been the guy that they expect of him yet, and that’s good news for the 49ers too.
Another addition to the Cardinals is Jerame Tuman, who was the blocking tight end in Pittsburgh when Whisenhunt was there. They also brought in linebacker Clark Haggans, and I think that’s just what happens. You bring in players that you’re familiar with, players that you’ve won with in other places, players that know your system. But Tuman, he’s a good pickup for Arizona. It’s always tough to go against a two tight end set, because it’s so versatile. It can be a run or a pass set. The NFL has become so specialized now that you have nickel defenses, even dime defenses on first down. With that two tight end set, how are you going to play against it? Are you going to play it with your base defense? Your nickel defense? That’s something if you handle it early on, they’ll go away from it. If they are successful early on, it could be a long day for the 49ers defense.
Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has done a tremendous job since he’s been there. He’s the longest tenured coach on the staff. He’s really an aggressive guy. He’s got some dynamic players on that side of the ball. Defensive end Travis LaBoy is a guy who reminds of Justin Smith. He’s obviously not Smith, but he has the same kind of relentless motor. They’re going to do some familiar things to the 49ers, they’re going to be in a 4-3 mostly, but they’ll also be in a hybrid 3-4 as well. I think Whisenhunt would like to copy the 3-4 he had in Pittsburgh, but similar to the 49ers, it takes a while to get there. It’s all about personnel and having the right guys to do it. They’ve been a 4-3 team for so long, and that’s where their players fit best. With LaBoy and Haggans, that gives them some more versatility. I can even see them standing up Bertrand Berry, who has played outside linebacker before. The only thing they really lost on defense was Calvin Pace and I think they made up for that with their defensive acquisitions.
As far as Arizona’s interior defensive linemen are concerned, Brian Robinson is a guy who has been around for 12 years. But behind him, they’re very thin at the defensive tackle position right now, which could be a huge benefit for the 49ers. I can guarantee you that Martz has installed, if not a no-huddle offense, a very up tempo offense for this game. If he can get guys in and out of the huddle and run a play every 25 seconds, he’s going to have some guys sucking wind over there. It’s the first game. Remember, a lot of these guys have only played for the most part a quarter to a half of football.
Their most dynamic player defensively is strong safety Adrian Wilson. He got hurt last year, but he looks to be back from what I’ve seen in the preseason. He’s a guy who Pendergast likes to feature.
The great thing about that is it seems that JT O’Sullivan has an amazingly quick release. That’s what you need in order to combat strong safety blitzes and that’s what you’re going to get a lot of with Wilson. If you can get them on their heels, and that’s one of the neat things of Martz’s offense - there are so many hot reads and routes - you can get the ball out quickly and it’s frustrating defensively. What happens when you hear a call in the huddle and it’s a blitz? You get jacked up, you’re salivating and you’re ready to go. And if the quarterback is getting the ball out in two seconds, you don’t have a chance to get there and it’s frustrating. You go back and try it again, and at some point if it’s exploited by the adjustments of the quarterback and the receivers, and then you have to go away from that. So, if O’Sullivan can make them pay, he’ll take away a huge part of the Cardinals defense.
I think moving Antrel Rolle to safety was very important for them, because it’s no longer a league of strong safety, free safety. This week might be the closest too that, with Wilson, who is one of those Roy Williams-type throwbacks. He’s almost like a linebacker really. He does have good coverage skills for a guy his size, but for the most part, they’re going to use Rolle as much as they can in coverage. Being a former cornerback, when they face three wide receivers, now they can use Wilson to play the deep middle and you can move Rolle up. That’s good versatility having Rolle back there. He never really lived up to the expectations of being a corner. Some guys can make that transition, some guys can’t. If he can make that transition, it can really improve the Cardinals defensively.
When the 49ers have the ball, we’ve seen Mike Martz have the ability to isolate Vernon Davis on the backside of a formation, we saw him do that a couple of times in the preseason and I’m looking forward to seeing much more of those mismatches. That’s Martz at his finest. It was a pretty simplistic formation, but you’re going to see him doing it out of so much stuff that guys’ heads are going to be swimming. I don’t think Martz is going to hold anything back. Either you know his offense and the multiple shifts, formations and up tempo or you’re not going to play. We saw glimpses of that in the preseason, and I expect at least one defensive timeout in the first half by Arizona.
As far as matchups are concerned, the key one of the game is JT O’Sullivan versus the Arizona defense. You hate to put that kind of pressure on him, but if O’Sullivan plays well and does his job which he’s always talked about, putting the ball where he supposed to and trusting his receivers, the 49ers will have a great game. If the pressure gets to him and he doesn’t play well, it could be a long day for the 49ers.
I think with the adversity he’s had to overcome, he’s been competing in a game-like situation the day he was signed, going back to his days at UC-Davis, when he walked on and then having to go play in NFL Europe. He’s the Tony Wragge of the quarterback position. Those are guys you can usually count on, because they’ve already faced so much adversity.
But the other key to this game will be turnovers. It’s so generic, but when you look at the Cardinals defense they scored a number of touchdowns last year. It’s an opportunistic defense, and so the turnover battle is certainly key to the game.
It’s so important for the 49ers to win this first game. You look at teams that qualify for the playoffs, and it’s almost 75 percent if you win the first week you qualify for the playoffs.
09-05-2008, 10:55 AM
Tempering the Pass with Pressure print
September 04, 2008
Similar to the 49ers, this Sunday’s opponent features a veteran quarterback who recently beat out a former first-round pick for the starting position.
The Cardinals open competition came to a close over this past weekend when Arizona named Kurt Warner the starter over Matt Leinart. It’s a decision that the 49ers defense expected.
“He’s a guy who unfortunately has had a lot of success against us, whether it be with the Rams, Cardinals, whatever,” said linebacker Jeff Ulbrich. “It’s going to be a great challenge for our defense. He’s a smart, savvy guy. He can play well against your defense, so you gotta play well.”
Cornerback Shawntae Spencer also admits that Warner presents the bigger threat.
“He’s a very good, good player, he’s very experienced and he poses a concern for us,” said Spencer. “There’s not too many things he hasn’t seen in ten plus years. He’s a very , very capable quarterback, and has a good winning record. He gave them the best chance to win over the young quarterback and I think that’s why they made that decision.”
As opposed to Leinart, who threw for only 102 yards against the 49ers defense in week one of last year, Warmer put up 484 passing yards in the second game of last year’s series.
“The biggest part of the game for us defensively is playing solid against their receivers,” said Spencer. “Last year we did a pretty good job the first game, the second game they did very well against us and it came down to the wire, actually went to overtime. It’s one of those things, their offense goes as they go so we have to try to limit the touches their receivers they get and limit the big plays.”
Spencer refers to those receivers – Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald – as the “heart and soul of the offense.”
The 49ers feel good about the talents of their own secondary, but the best way to temper the potency of Arizona’s receiving tandem is to prevent the ball from getting out of Warner’s very capable throwing arm.
“The best thing we can do is get pressure on him and force him to make bad decisions and bad throws and get some guys chance to make interceptions and plays on the ball,” said linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, the man who recovered that end zone fumble last November.
In that second matchup, the 49ers defense sacked Warner four times including the sack and forced fumble in the end zone to seal the overtime win. Getting in Warner’s face even more often this go-around is a primary goal for the 49ers defense.
“It’s real critical,” said second-year defensive end Ray McDonald. “They are a timing offense and their routes and the quarterback throw to the receiver is all based on timing and we need to get pressure up the middle,” said McDonald. “Like a lot of teams in the NFL, the quarterback needs to step up in the pocket to complete his passes. So we have to get pressure up the middle, and pressure off the edges. That’s real important and hopefully when Sunday gets here, we can do that.”
Pressuring the quarterback is something McDonald’s defensive line coach Jim Tomsula harps on relentlessly.
“He is always on us. But, when you don’t get there as a defensive lineman, you failed. It doesn’t matter what they do, if they double you or not,” said McDonald. “You have just got to get there, and when you don’t, you leave the cornerbacks out to dry. When you leave them out to dry, that’s when you lose and get beat deep or get a big third down completion. So it’s always is in our head to get pressure on the quarterback and not leave our cornerbacks out to dry.”
From the secondary’s perspective, that’s a two-way street.
“We all work hand-in-hand,” said Clements. “Those guys up front, they’ve been playing hard, have been playing lights-out and getting to the quarterback. For the secondary, our job is to cover those guys and give our guys time to get back there. They’d probably say the same thing, they need to get to the quarterback so we won’t have to cover as long. But we all as a defensive unit work hand-in-hand.”
The front seven and backend of the defense will all need to chip in when it comes to stopping the other portion of the Arizona offense .
“It’s huge that we stop the run too,” said linebacker Manny Lawson. “If you can make a team one dimensional, the better the chance is of stopping that team. You stop the run, you know they have to pass and you can come up with better pass rush defenses and get our guys to the quarterback to help out our corners.”
Those corners clam they’re up for the challenge – run or pass.
“We are the last line of defense and we understand that in the pass game, and the run game,” said Spencer. “If the ball makes it to us, we have to make solid tackles so that we get to the next play.”
Thursday Practice Notes:
The 49ers practiced in full pads on Thursday.
Tight end Delanie Walker was added to the injury report after missing practice with a calf injury. Head coach Mike Nolan expects him to practice on Friday.
Nolan indicated that Adam Snyder would start at left guard, with David Baas backing up both guard positions. Jeff Ulbrich will start at TED, but Nolan expects Takeo Spikes to see a solid dose of action.
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