The 49ers and Cardinals are just a couple days away, so I thought I would chat with Jess from Revenge of the Birds, to get his thoughts on this matchup. In case you missed it, on Wednesday we broke down under the radar players in this game. On Thursday we broke down why each team will win on Sunday.
Niners Nation: I thought Arizona's addition of Carson Palmer was one of the more underrated moves thos offseason. Why is the passing game struggling?
Revenge of the Birds: The easiest answer to that question is the play of the offensive line. Palmer, while he has not been sacked a ton, is getting pressured a lot. Last week against Carolina, the line have up 15 pressures in 30 drop backs. Palmer needs to be able to set his feet.
The other issue is more concerning. There is still a lot of miscommunication. Palmer and his receivers just aren't on the same page. The receivers aren't always running good routes, so that is an issue, too. Now, these inconsistencies should get fixed as we move in through the season. The offence tends to get in one or two very impressive drives a game. Hopefully that is the case this weekend, without the turnovers.
NN: How is the young secondary developing?
RotB: Promising. Patrick Peterson is having a fantastic start to the season. Tyrann Mathieu is making plays on a consistent basis and is not making glaring mistakes. Undrafted rookie Tony Jefferson is also making plays v when he comes in off the bench in nickel sets since Rashad Johnson has been out, and dime sets otherwise.
NN: Is Andre Ellington going to climb past Rashard Mendenhall on the depth chart, or are they basically a committee at this point? How has the ground game looked?
RotB: The ground game has been okay. The issue has been more about playcalling. On scoring drives, the Cardinals run the ball and do it well. Then, when they don't run the ball, they don't score. For whatever reason, that's how it goes. It could be that they don't run the ball well, so they stop, and the drives stall. But their success offensively seems to match their commitment to the run, which is interesting because Arians has a reputation of just wanting to chuck the ball down the field.
Per Bruce Arians, we won't be seeing much more of Ellington. He claims that Ellington is built to be a 30-35 play contributor. He is used in the backfield and as a receiver. He has more or less taken over the role of fourth receiver. Mendenhall has had a toe injury. He has games where he has that burst and other where he does not.
Mendenhall will get the bulk of the carries. Ellington will get a few. Ellington will get thrown at some. That's how it will work.
NN: It seems like Patrick Peterson hasn't quite lit it up in the punt return game. What's up with the Cardinals return game?
RotB: The easiest answer is that punters are doing a good job of avoiding big plays. Also, the return squad that blocked so well for Peterson in 2011 is not the same. The return game has been very blah. No real big plays outside of one big kickoff return from Javier Arenas.
NN: What are the key matchups you'll be watching on Sunday?
RotB: There are a couple. The first is Patrick Peterson and Anquan Boldin. With Boldin representing almost half of the 49ers passing offense, this has the potential to completely take away the passing game. Will the Cards play more man or zone coverage? That will be the question. Too much zone and Q will dominate. He is too smart and too good. In man coverage, Peterson can take him away.
The other matchup is simply the Cards defense against the running attack of the Niners. Arizona is number three against the rush this season so far. They appear to match up very well to make life very difficult for San Fran. Has the dominant play against the rush been anomalous? Or will the San Fran running game be held up like other attacks? If so, this will be a fantastic game. It will also be the biggest test, considering how the Niners have rushed 76 times for 396 yards.