Over the last few years when the San Francisco 49ers have played the Arizona Cardinals, it has often seemed like the 49ers do a fairly decent job of containing wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. He does OK against them, but few big games stick out in my head. It has helped that the 49ers have won four straight against the Cardinals, with the Cardinals last getting into double digits against the 49ers in September 2009.
Nate Clements was the guy who often drew the Fitzgerald assignment, and for some reason even as he struggled against other receivers, Clements seemed to step up his game when it came to Fitzgerald. Now that Clements is gone, it will be interesting to see how the 49ers elect to cover Fitzgerald on Sunday. I suspect we will see them roll a safety over to double him. Last night on VERSUS NFL Turning Point show, they spoke with Eli Manning leading up to the last week's game and he mentioned the 49ers tendency to roll a safety over to double a particular receiver. They doubled Hakeem Nicks for stretches of time last week, and I'd be pretty surprised if the 49ers didn't double Fitzgerald this week.
That places a lot more pressure on wide receiver Early Doucet. The fourth-year receiver is finally emerging after struggling in the shadows his first three seasons. He is on pace for 64 receptions, 820 yards and seven touchdowns. It isn't spectacular, but as the Eagles can attest, Doucet can bite you when you least expect it.
The 49ers mix and match their cornerbacks with receivers so we could see a mix of Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver matching up with Doucet. While Cardinals QB John Skelton will have to look out for the double coverage on Fitzgerald, I'd imagine much of the time he can simply chuck it up to his big receiver. If the 49ers continue their dominance against the run game, Fitzgerald and Doucet will be the focus for the rest of the defense.