We now stand a little less than 60 hours from kickoff and I'm sure everybody is getting pretty amped up. I realized recently that while we've looked at the various pieces of the 49ers team, we haven't really done one big look at everything as a whole. While each piece is important, they're all part of one big puzzle. Later today I'll have a more general look at the team and open things up for final predictions for the season. In the meantime, the injury report is clearing up a bit and there is plenty of room for observation. Also, thank to the 49ers I'm able to get a peak at the transcripts of Mike Nolan's daily press conferences. Any mentions of Nolan comments are attributed to that, as opposed to when I would previously quote from Barrows or Maiocco.
On the 49ers side, things are looking decent (knock on multiple pieces of wood). Aubrayo Franklin and Parys Haralson were limited earlier this week, but both were able to fully compete in practice yesterday. I'd say that removes them from game-day decision consideration. It's nice to have your entire defense on the field and growing acclimated to each other. If you know exactly who will be where, things are simpler for the rest of the defens and you can let your instincts kick in.
The only other face on the injury report is Delanie Walker, who had a sore calf and sat out practice yesterday, but is expected to return today. The comment of the day goes to Mike Nolan, "He's got a calf [injury]. He should practice tomorrow. He's got two calves, one is sore." For some reason that last line cracked me up. Yes, Dr. Mike, your tight end has two calves. Maybe it's just me.
Finally, in somewhat related news, Coach Nolan indicated that Adam Snyder would start at left guard and Tony Wragge would start at right guard. David Baas will be coming off the bench behind both Wragge and Snyder. Nolan indicated that Baas is still a bit rusty considering the long layoff he had with the injury. Since I wouldn't expect rotation on the offensive line, I'm really curious to see how, or even if, they work Baas back into the starting lineup. Maybe he just got Wally Pipped?
On the Cardinals side, things are not so rosy. Starting center Al Johnson and backup defensive tackle Alan Branch did not practice at all for the second straight day. Starting defensive tackle Gabe Watson and backup tight ends Ben Patrick and Jerame Tuman were limited in practice (although it's not known to what extent). Additionally, starting left tackle Mike Gandy took part in a full workout after being limited earlier in the week.
So what does all that mean? If their starting center is out they'll be rolling out a third year backup, Lyle Sendlein. His scouting report indicates he's a bit undersized and might get tossed around by the bigger nose tackles in the league. Of course, considering the struggles of Aubrayo Franklin, that won't be as big an issue. However, a backup smaller center could help Franklin establish position and open gaps for Bamm Bamm and Ulbrich/Spikes. Either way, if it is a backup center playing, I'd really hope the 49ers bring heat up the middle as often as possible to test the youngster.
If Branch and Watson are hurting, that certainly softens up the middle of the Cardinals defensive line. We'll obviously get a heavy dose of Frank Gore no matter who is playing. However, if the interior of the defensive line is banged up, it's just one more area to cull an advantage. While it's certainly possible J.T. O'Sullivan opens up a crazy air attack, I think it's safer to bet on the 49ers running game carrying them to any victories. Any advantage for Frank Gore is good advantage for Frank Gore.
When I was emailing back and forth with cgolden over at Revenge of the Birds, I inquired about the tight end situation in Arizona, since I'd imagine Manny Lawson would be drawing much of that assignment. He said that even if Patrick and company were completely healthy, they are not much of a threat. If Patrick and Truman are hurting, we'll get a big dose of Leonard Pope. Nothing to write home about.