Week One Gameday Preview: Cardinals @ 49ers

Former Martz guy and current Martz guy go head to head

Former Martz guy and current Martz guy go head to head

For the third straight year the 49ers and Cardinals will kick off the NFL season as the NFC West rivals face each other on September 7th. Much was made of these teams matching up when the 49ers took quarterback Alex Smith number one overall in 2005 and Arizona selected his counterpart, Matt Leinart out of USC with the 10th pick in 2006. At the time it was thought that the two signal-callers would meet twice a year and give their fans and the NFL a few “battles for the ages.” This has yet to come to fruition however as both men will be carrying clipboards this Sunday when their squads meet at Candlestick Park. The last two seasons the 49ers have swept their neighbors to the southeast in what have been some well fought, grind it out games. In the two contests from 2007 the outcome was not decided until the final minutes with San Francisco winning both on an end-around touchdown from wide receiver Arnaz Battle and an end-zone fumble recovery by Tully Banta-Cain respectively.

Both teams will have somewhat of a different look this weekend when they square off as the 49ers have completely revamped their receiving corps, signing Isaac Bruce as well as the Cardinals third receiver the last few years in Bryant Johnson. Said Johnson of the match-up; “The thing you have to be careful about going into a situation like this is o.d.ing on your emotions. I’m here now. I’m not there anymore and I’m taking the approach (that) they’re an opponent now.”

On defense the Cardinals have moved last years interception leader, Antrel Rolle (5) to free safety this season and hope that he can pay dividends as he teams with strong safety Adrian Wilson who is making his return to the field after missing most of last season with a heel and calf injury. Arizona also lost linebacker Calvin Pace via free agency to the New York Jets however they signed pass rush specialist, DE Travis Laboy and linebacker Matt Stewart. Neither should equal what Pace brought to the team but they do add some depth on defense. The 49ers are returning 2007 Defensive Rookie of the Year (and some say should have been Rookie of the Year) linebacker Patrick Willis as well as outside linebacker Manny Lawson who saw last years campaign cut short due to an ACL injury after only two games. San Francisco also brought in free agent Takeo Spikes and claimed Ahmed Brooks off of waivers last week from the Cincinnati Bengals and suddenly what was a strong unit last season becomes what might be the teams best overall.

Key Match-ups

    49ers Secondary vs. Cardinals Receivers

In last seasons opener the 49ers held Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to seven receptions, 42 yards and one touchdown combined en route to a 20-17 victory at Candlestick. That should not happen again but you won’t see head coach Mike Nolan complaining if it does. Losing Bryant Johnson to the 49ers via free agency was a significant blow to the Cardinals offense with Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner admitting as much this week. ““We lose a lot,” admitted Warner. “Bryant was a great complement to our other two guys. He was very explosive and could give us the big play and stretch the field for us.” That said Arizona still has their two starters and the 49ers defensive backs have to be weary of that. Much of the success or lack thereof the secondary can expect in this area will hinge on the ability of their front seven to break through what is now a good Arizona offensive line and get in Warner’s face. The QB has proven that his game is negatively affected when his cage is rattled. Look for the Niners to attack him with multiple blitz schemes and stunts in an attempt to do so.

    Frank Gore vs. Cardinals Front Seven

By his own standards Frank Gore did not have a good season in 2007. By the NFL’s standards he still managed to break the 1,000 yard rushing mark in what was one of the worst offenses in the league history. Arizona’s defense was very solid against the rush last season, surrendering less then 100 yards per game and finished as the ninth run defense in the league. Things appear to be going that direction again in 2008 as the team returns all starters from last year however injuries have beset this unit going into the opener. Gabe Watson is doubtful for the game and backup Alan Branch is ailing as well. Gore has always had good games on the ground when playing Arizona, evidenced by his 4.5 career YPC average against them. With the 49ers offensive line appearing to gel in the preseason after moving Joe Staley to left tackle and getting back right guard David Baas from a torn pectoral muscle, look for this battle to be won by San Francisco as Gore has another productive outing.

    JT O’Sullivan vs. Cardinals Pass Rush

This could prove to be a significant deciding factor in who wins this game. San Francisco must protect their new starting quarterback and give him time to hit his receivers as it is what the Mike Martz offense is predicated on. Last season the 49ers in their abysmal offense surrendered 55 sacks, tied for most in the league while the Cardinals defense registered 36 against their opponents. Look for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to attack the line all day in an attempt to get into O’Sullivan’s head who is making his first start at the NFL level. If the 49ers can manage to give him time however it could be a long day for the Arizona defense as Martz will continue to utilize a heavy mix of run and pass in trying to keep Adrian Wilson and company off balance.

Injuries

San Francisco: For the first time in years the 49ers are beginning the regular season with a fully healthy squad. The only two players who were of any concern in this department were OLB Parys Haralson (shoulder) and NT Aubrayo Franklin (knee) took part in full practice on Thursday and TE Delanie Walker rested a sore calf but was expected to go through practice today. All three are expected to play this Sunday.

Arizona: The Cardinals injury report is not as yielding as the 49ers as Al Johnson or Alan Branch have practiced this week and Gabe Watson, Ben Patrick and Jermane Tuman have all been limited this week. Word is that Watson will not play and Branch who backs him up might be hobbled as well. Without Watson alone their front line takes a significant hit and even though Lyle Sendlein can fill in for Johnson at center he is not accustomed to starting.

As I stated in my initial season preview article I fully expect the 49ers to win on Sunday. 49ers: 20 Cardinals: 17

  • Adam49

    Besides the journalism,he sounds like the rest of us.

  • James Jones

    And that means what exactly?

  • Adam49

    It means your a die hard like the rest of us.

  • ninerfaithful

    james jones articals are the bomb!!! james keep it up

  • James Jones

    Adam49: That I am. Always have been and always will be. There is nothing that can or ever will cause me to stop backing this team. Being born and rasied in the bay I have to much history in rooting for and following the Niners. However I can be and am unbiased in my rants and when I see something that needs to be called to attention I don’t hesitate to do so.

    NF: Thanks, I appreciate it.

  • Billy

    James Jones keep on doing what your doing. I cannot wait to see the 49er defeat the Cardinals in BILL WALSH STADIUM!!! (May GOD be with you Bill) We have to WIN or else Ill be pissed being in the stadium know were (0-1) but that wont happen hopefully

  • J. Johnson

    We cant afford to give Warner too much time to throw, pass rush from D-line have to step up. Cant always blitz the secondary.

  • James Jones

    I tend to fall in line with Maiocco in regards to believing that this team is going to be better then most expect. That includes getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

  • joe gomez

    James.. good journalism, how did you end up in Cardinal Country? So is the stadium really as nice as they say over there? Hopefully we get ours soon, Candlestick is historic, but we need a new stadium bad. If JTO has a good game, I dont see it as close as you have it. Niners by atleast 10.

  • ScottyMac

    Definitely a fine piece of article/work! Only thing missing or needs to be corrected is the outcome of the game.

  • 5Rings

    Hopefully that top pick we have isnt a bust and gets in there in the D-line a few plays and make some plays. Personally didnt like the pick. Top ten pick should be somebody who can contribute right away. Not sitting on the bench.

  • James Jones

    Thanks Joe, I moved out here four years ago with my wife because of the housing market in CA. We bought a house out here for a fraction of the cost that we could there.

    It is very nice indeed. My brother, two friends from here and I went to the opener in 2006 when the Niners came here for the first ever regular season game there. It is a gorgeous stadium and I hope that San Francisco gets one as nice or better very soon.

    I was being conservative in my prediction no doubt. I honestly believe that if O’Sullivan gets protection and has a good game, opening things up for Frank that the offense will explode for 30+ points and demolish the Cards.

    ScottyMac: You shouldn’t allow betting on football games to alter your judgement so much. Note, the spread is not always correct.

    5Rings: If you’re talking about Kentwan Balmer, he was taken with the 29th overall pick, not in the top 10. If you’re comment meant that we shoud have had a top 10 pick but lost it to the Patriots in the trade then I understand. Although if the 49ers had kept that pick, Balmer would not even be on the team now.

  • Adam49

    If our D-Line gets stoned at the line of scrimmage,it’s gonna be a long day.Pressure on the QB has gotta be improved this year.

  • joe gomez

    Adam, I think our last pass rusher with over 10 sacks was Andre Carter who had 12.5 in 2002. Correct me if im wrong. Also, with the Cardinals big play receivers, im kind of worried about our safeties back there. I mean Roman had ZERO int’s last year, that is a big concern. Hes got the green sticker on his helmet meaning hell be receiving and calling plays on defense. Tell me what you think, but I thnk we should of made a push for Jason Taylor. I just dont see a big pass rush from Justin Smith. James, was Justin Smith the best pass rusher out there? I think he had 2 sacks all last season.

  • Los Banos Jerry

    Joe last year he wasn’t used as a pass rusher. The niners
    are gonna move him around. 1st down right end in the 3/4.
    2nd down standing up like an Outside LB, in the 4/3. There
    hoping that if he attracts double teams. Then McDonald,
    Haralson, Lawson, will be able to apply the preasure.

    49ers.com has updated the depth chart. Staley, Snyder, Heitmann, Wragge, Jennings.

    defense
    DE Ray McDonald, Balmer
    DT Sopoaga, Fields
    DT Franklin, Fields
    DE Smith, Balmer

    OLB Lawson, Banta-Cain
    MLB Ulbrich, Spikes
    MLB Willis, Brooks
    OLB Haralson, Green

    CB Clements, Strickland, Brown, Rossum
    CB Harris, Spencer, Hudson, Smith
    SS M Lewis, K Lewis
    FS Roman, Goldson

  • Adam49

    Jerry is correct.But Jusin Smith was really the only threat on that defensive line.So he got double teamed constantly.And Gomez,i believe your correct when you say that Andre Carter was our last 10+ sack guy.And i’m not at 49ers practice everyday but,there has been no doubt in my mind that Goldson should be starting at Free safety.Not only did he have an astounding 0 INT’s last year,he has been gettin torched this preseason.

  • MSouza

    Justin Smith only had two sacks last year, but had quite a few hurries. I remember against the niners he was in there every other play. Also, he really didn’t have anybody else on the line with him to draw away any attention. Hopefully the niners get creative this year with their blitzes and free up some of the down lineman, but Smith will be all over the place regardless.

  • AXEGRINDER

    You know what would be nice? If we could run up the score on these Cardinal pricks. For once, I’d like to see Nolan win a game by three touchdowns (in the regular season). All these ESPN naysayers can get the third leg.

  • Adam49

    That would be great.I wouldn’t mind running the sore up on these big mouth fools at all.You should check out some of the Cards blog sites.You would think they didn’t loose a game last year.I really hope we put a good ass whoopin on these fucksticks.

  • http://niners Medford

    Go Niners and Go Ducks!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://niners Medford

    I think JTO will be using alot of timeouts early in this game because the lack of experience he has starting a NFL game. I hope im wrong but that is what I see hopefully it wont hurt us.

  • joe gomez

    He hasn’t started an NFL game but im not really worried. I think he KNOWS this Martz offense and hes gonna light it up.

  • joe gomez

    Anquan Boldin desperately wants to be traded. He definitely doesnt want to be a Cardinal anymore. We already snatched Johnson, I think we should go after him. Hell be fired up facing his old team and would probably put up big numbers.

  • AXEGRINDER

    I dont think the Cardinals would trade Boldin to a division rival. But you’re right…..we should go after him if we can.

  • joe gomez

    They traded Johnson to a division rival. Anything is possible and I think our WR corps is good dont get me wrong but would Anquan we would be even better.

  • joe gomez

    Alex Smith is listed doubtful for this game. He re-injured the same shoulder during practice and has to go talk to his surgeon for recommendations. Man, when it rains it pours. Loses his best friend, loses his starting job, and now this. I honestly feel sorry for the guy. He was just in a very bad situation from the beginning.

  • James

    Just to let you gents know, I am also a Marine, discharged in ’95 after serving as an 03 grunt.

    Joe: No Smith was not the Bengals best pass rusher last season but the difference between him and that man is not staggering to say the least. DE Robert Geathers was the sack leader in Cincy in 2007 and he had 3.5. As a team they only registered 22 sacks on the season ranking last in the league, even the 49ers ended with 31 sacks in 2007, good for 21st overall.

    As Jerry said earlier, Manuksy is going to be moving Smith around from DE to OLB quite a bit this season to keep opposing offenses off balance and not allow them to know where and when he is coming after the QB.

    Also I really don’t see Arizona trading Boldin here not only because of being in the same division but also because this rivalry has heated up quite a bit over the last two seasons and I doubt they want to face him twice a year with the added motivation he would have to blow up against them. I don’t think they trade him at all to be honest, just my opinion.

    Also if you meant they traded Bryant Johnson to a division rival, being the 49ers, Johnson was actually signed to a one-year deal as a free agent this last offseason.

    Adam: Andre Carter was the last player to break the double digit mark for sacks in San Francisco, it was 12.5 in 2002. I recall after that season Niner Faithful thought that the team had found it pass rush specialist, sadly Carter never came close to that number again.

    I hope everyone enjoys the game tomorrow and when it’s over that we all come back here and talk about how the 49ers fared very well on opening day against an Arizona team that looks pretty good as well.

  • Desert9er

    Actually, it sounds like they’re trying to now say that his shoulder has not been right this whole time…

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/06/SPEH12PDU6.DTL&tsp=1

    and the drama begins…

  • Los Banos Jerry

    What do you want to bet that his agent is behind this. I
    love it. Mccloughan says this week that if Smith isn’t the
    starter by next year hes gone. Sounds like there going for
    a injury settlement.

  • joe gomez

    You think so Jerry? How much would a injury settlement be worth you think? I think they should give it to him. Just pay him and move on. Just admit he was a mistake and cut the rope. Its not like were the first team to waste millions of dollars on a #1 overall pick. There will be a time where we land another Joe Montana or Steve Young. Who knows, maybe JTO will pan out and become a star. Thats wishful thinking ofcourse.

  • Adam49

    Gettin a little nervous over here.It’s kinda hard not to have that feeling that were gonna step out and stink up the joint.It’s been so damn long since we’ve marched the ball down the field for a score on out opening posession.It’s only a few hours away now.I’ll be drinking early for this one.GO SAN FRAN!

  • AXEGRINDER

    Johnson was a free agent. Boldin is under contract.

  • Los Banos Jerry

    Ok remember when Young went down with the concussion. This
    skinny kid from Gilroy comes in and surprises everyone. Went to the Pro Bowl didn’t he………Well I got this
    feeling that JTO and Martz, got alot to prove. We’re gonna
    win our division. 8-8, or 9-7.

    Joe I’m not sure what or how it would break down. But his
    agent stands to lose millions if Smith gets released next
    year or sooner. Its important that it appears that hs’s
    slightly injured, and that a new team and scenery are all
    he needs. We know better…Hes a bum. McCloughan is playing this perfect. Hill is the 2nd QB PERFECT………

  • joe gomez

    Jerry..ok cool, whatever that agent wants to do. Lets just do whatevers best for the team. Axegrinder, yeah I see your point, I would love to see Anquan in a 49ers uniform anyday. Hes got serious skills.

  • joe gomez

    Adam, dont worry, even though we dont score on the first possession I have a feeling we are going to light up the scoreboard tomorrow. Cardinals are in for a big surprise!

  • Adam49

    I had that same feeling last year.And even though we were 2-0 i had a feeling things weren’t clicking.But i do believe things are gonna be differant this year.Especially because we are healthy.At this time last year Gore was limping all over the place.So let’s hope for the best.

  • J. Johnson

    Were gonna fry those birds tomorrow, I guarantee it. They dont really respect us so theyre gonna get hit right in the mouth. 49ers 35, Cardinals 10

  • Adam49

    That would be nice.

  • FaStRmAn

    Smith is officially the Biggest bust in NFL history :

    http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/default.asp?item=2259547

    Now he says he’s hurt again… pathetic is what I think. He was a complete waste of a first round pick and a lot of money he never earned. Screw You Alice Smith !! Your name will forever be linked to bust and looser !!

  • joe gomez

    AAaaaahh…there you are FastRdick…thought i forgot about your bitch ass huh? Thats fucken old news already dumb ass, whats up with your delayed reaction? Go up about 13 posts idiot, if you can read i already covered that. the kid has had a bad break, so leave him the fuck alone already. your statements are so damn late you should get bitch slapped for it. now try to keep up dickhead.

  • joe gomez

    Alex Smith isnt just saying hes hurt. His doctor has confirmed that a part of the bone in his shoulder has broken off. I seriously doubt a doctor would lie to the media. Sounds like he might need more surgery.

  • Adam49

    The Alex Smith era of the San Francisco 49ers is over.We should move on.There’s alot of us that wanted to see the kid do well and it just wasn’t in the cards.We will lay our fate in JT’s hands and if this don’t work out were screwed.

  • Los Banos Jerry

    I think a moment of silence is appropiate at this time. LOL

    I hate to see anyone get hurt. Its time to put him on IR.

    49ers 33 Cardinals 19 go 9rs

  • Mike

    JTO a pick and a fumble in first half.. SO far I’m thinking.. what vet is on the block that we may be able to make a trade for b/c we can’t be turning the ball over like this

  • joe gomez

    Dont panic on JTO yet, hes got a pick and lost a ball on a fumble but the main thing he is on target with his receivers. My players of the game so far…

    Offense: Frank Gore

    Defense: Entire 49ers D

  • Mike

    I’m on east coast joe so makes it a little harder for me since game isn’t broadcast out here. so all i have to go on is stat lines coming from game centers on nfl.com..

  • Mike

    Although judgin from fact that we have 3 sacks so far and haralson has 2.5 of them.. gotta think that we are getting good/decent pressure on qb atleast..

  • Mike

    And our offense still sux.. JTO with 2 fumbles and a pick.. COME ON..also not pleased with fact that arizona scored every single quarter of the game..
    How did players look? I couldn’t watch game. Doesn’t get broadcast on east coast.

  • http://theysuck@yahoo.com sad to be a niner fan

    well the 49ers are still the worst team in the leage.. its sad and shamefull to be a niner fan…weak ass pussys

  • Niner Pundit

    Mike…offense looked okay. The turnovers killed them. JT actually made good decisions and hung in there. It still needs work but if he can get more games under his belt he’ll be fine.

    Defense looked good, but being on the field the entire second half killed them.