clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jimmie Ward, Tramaine Brock will be under microscope against Cardinals 3-WR looks

The Arizona Cardinals use a whole bunch of three-wide receiver looks to push their offense. We take a look at what it means for the 49ers defense.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The San Francisco 49ers defense was thoroughly shredded in Week 2 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, giving up 369 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers quarterback completed passes of 59, 56, 48, 41, 35 and 28 yards, as the 49ers could not get any pass rush going, and their secondary got turned around over the course of the day.

The 49ers now face an Arizona Cardinals offense that is off to a strong start in its own right. Carson Palmer only had 185 yards in Week 2, but big pass interference penalties set him up for four touchdown passes on the day. The Cardinals are expected to spread things out, similar in some way to the Steelers. Pittsburgh used 3+ wide receiver personnel 79 percent of the time in Week 2. Through two weeks, Arizona has used that personnel 2/3 of the time.

This makes for some interesting decisions for the 49ers. In Week 1, Jaquiski Tartt played 20 defensive snaps, and Jimmie Ward played 13 defensive snaps. In Week 2, Ward played 27 snaps, and Tartt played 11 snaps. Tartt has shown skill as a blitzer, while also being a capable run stopper. The Cardinals are not bringing the best running game to the table, but given their offensive line performance, it might make sense for Eric Mangini to get some more use out of Tartt.

The Cardinals started Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown the first two weeks, but Michael Floyd is quickly working into the mix. In Week 2, Fitzgerald played 55 snaps, Brown played 48 snaps and Floyd played 38 snaps. The week before Floyd only played 9 snaps. I imagine we see a closer split again in Week 3, with Floyd eventually surpassing Brown on the depth chart this season.

The 49ers have mixed and matched their slot coverage thus far. Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward have handled the bulk of it, per Pro Football Focus. In Week 1, Brock had 14 snaps in the slot, and Ward had seven. In Week 2, Ward had 14 and Brock had 10. Larry Fitzgerald has handled more time in the slot than any other Cardinals receiver. Ward's worst performance as a pro came against 6'4, 230 pound wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Fitzgerald stands 6'3 and weighs 218 pounds. Fitzgerald and Marshall are two different receivers, but I'd probably feel a little more comfortable with Brock's experience on him. We'll see what Eric Mangini has in mind for Week 3.