The San Francisco 49ers have entered a dead period, with four weeks left until the team reports for training camp. Since we know the schedule, and most 90-man rosters are just about set, now seems like a good time to start previewing each of the 49ers opponents heading into training camp. With the help of the other 31 SB Nation blogs, we’ve come up with preview content breaking down where things stand for each team on a variety of issues. We’ve got a template looking at key additions and departures, big storylines and under-the-radar storylines heading into camp, and injuries to consider.
We’re going to run down the schedule, but I will be saving the divisional opponents for the end. We started with the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New Orleans Saints, and today we move on to the 49ers Week 10 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers travel to Glendale for this game, having already played them in Santa Clara on Thursday Night Football in Week 5.
The Cardinals rolled through much of the 2015 regular season, finishing 13-3 and easily winning the NFC West. They won a wild one over the Green Bay Packers in the divisional road, and then were destroyed by the Carolina Panthers in the NFC title game. They return this year with a big addition in pass rusher Chandler Jones, they’re hoping for a healthy Tyrann Mathieu, and they’ll be looking to build on last year’s strong regular season. They and the Seahawks are nearly co-favorites to claim the NFC West in 2016, and injuries could be the difference.
Here is what our friends at Revenge of the Birds had to say about their Arizona Cardinals.
Notable free agent additions: Evan Mathis (OG) and Tyvon Branch (SS)
Notable free agent departures: Bobby Massive (OT) and Jerraud Powers (CB)
Trades: Traded Jonathan Cooper and a 2nd round pick for Chandler Jones
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
DT Robert Nkemdiche (1st Round) May not start in 2016, but is expected to be part of a much improved pass rush for the Cardinals
The rest of the class is promising down the line, but barring injury CB Brandon Williams (3rd round), C Evan Boehm (4th round), S Marqui Christian and OT Cole Toner (5th round) and CB Harlan Miller (6th round) will be special teams contributors and valuable depth.
Biggest offseason addition: Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche. The Cardinals defense biggest weakness was inability to rush the passer, they spent their first two 2016 draft picks addressing the issue. Jones is a proven nine sack a year player, Nkemdiche can be a dominant interior rusher early, it should improve the Cardinals biggest weakness.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: The growth of DJ Humphries at right tackle, how much does Evan Mathis have left in the tank at RG and can AQ Shipley man the center position for the year. The Arizona Cardinals have an offense loaded with talent, but the three question marks on the offensive line can throw a wrench in that plan.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: How does the new Arizona Cardinals secondary hold up? Justin Bethel is now cornerback two, Tyrann Mathieu may not be ready for game one so who assumes the role of free safety and nickel cornerback? The only guarantee for game one is Patrick Peterson, even Tony Jefferson is a battle for the starting job, everyone else is an unknown or returning from injury.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Tyrann Mathieu had a second ACL tear, will he be able to get back to being the most versatile defender in the NFL?