10 Sep Week 1 Preview: The Arizona Cardinals
It’s been a strange and frustrating year. That may be one of my greatest understatements ever.
With regards to football, we saw a unique NFL Draft event and a health conscious Training camp.
With no preseason games, several intriguing players were cut or waived without seeing any playing time in a 49ers uniform, players like JaMycal Hasty, Chase Harrel, Josh Hokit and Jauan Jennings. All four cleared waivers to make a practice squad sparkling with high draft pick vets like Jonathon Cyprien, Dion Jordan and Kevin White. But the 53 is set and it looks good. Very good. In fact the only groups in question are C and RG, and how the depth chart at CB looks opposite Uncle Sherm. We’ll be kicking off at home without fans against an energetic Cardinals squad.
Of course Arizona was not sitting idly by, and have made some moves to try to redress the balance in the NFC West. The highlight was trading for all star wideout DeAndre Hopkins; certainly one of, if not the very best receiver in the game. It’s a fascinating group with ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.
The Cards drafted OLB Isiah Simmons out of Clemson with their first-round selection, to try to address the weakness that Arizona had last year against tight ends. It’s not enough. Against a creative offense starring tight ends George Kittle and Jordan Reed, with Trent Taylor back roaming the underneath zones, running backs who excel at catching passes, and of course let’s not forget the amazing fullback who can do it all, Kyle Juszczyk. For a catch-and-run offense, there’s a lot of pressure on the LB corp. Of course they’ll be supported by SS Jalen Thompson, and they’ll need all the help they can get.
With a resurgent camp, Dante Pettis will be joining hopefully Deebo and hopefully rookie Brandon Aiyuk (by the will of the football gods) in battling against all star CB Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick. Safety Budda Baker will be patrolling the deep field, and I know George will be looking forward to reacquainting himself with the free safety.
Some battles to keep an eye out for:
Kittle vs Baker: “I’m still here, Budda!” This will always be a physical matchup, whether George has the ball in his iron grip or is blocking for someone else, his intensity and focus will require the very best out of Baker to match up.
Nick Bosa vs DJ Humphries: Bosa was a beast from his first snap and now in his second year, he continues to improve his repertoire of pass rushing moves. However, he’ll be asked to also seal the edge on rushing plays, forcing the wily Kenyan Drake into the maws of a hungry Kinlaw or indomitable DJ Jones.
Kyler Murray vs D Line:
Kyler is an escapologist and gifted at throwing whilst scrambling for his life. He’ll need to be. With Armstead, Ford and Bosa destroying pockets, there won’t be much time for an orderly progression through passing options. One of the most talented and deep defensive lines in all of football will be looking to make an early impression on the season.
Richard Sherman vs DeAndre Hopkins: Hop is a super smooth route-runner with great size and speed. This might be my favourite matchup to watch. Uncle Sherm will need all his veteran savvy to keep Hopkins taking the top off the D. The pass rush will help, and Jimmie Ward is sure to have an eye on that side of the field. It’s unclear whether Sherm will stay on the left defensive side of the field, or follow WR1. There will definitely be some contact with this one.
First TD Tevin Coleman
Who do you have? Tweet your predictions at me! @taggsimon!