With the SF 49ers hosting the Cardinals in Week 1, Niner Noise explores what Robert Saleh might do for the Niners’ defensive game plan.
The SF 49ers proved they could move the ball effectively against the Arizona Cardinals during both NFC West divisional games last season, putting up a combined points total of 64 points in Weeks 9 and 11 against a Cardinals defense that allowed more total yards than any other team in the NFL last season (6,432).
Despite some offseason defensive changes in Arizona, it’s not the Cardinals defense the Niners need be overly concerned about.
It’s going to be stopping Arizona’s offense.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid scheme got a flashy weapon this offseason, landing three-time first-team All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to pair with second-year quarterback Kyler Murray, last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. And in both games between these two division rivals, the Cardinals were threatening to pull off upsets late.
Only some late-game heroics from San Francisco saved head coach Kyle Shanahan from the embarrassment associated with losing to a last-place team.
For coordinator Robert Saleh and the 49ers defense, the game plan in this Week 1 opener should be a trifold approach: limiting running back Kenyan Drake on the ground, frustrating Murray enough and preventing Hopkins from doing too much damage through the air.
Niner Noise explores how the Niners may achieve this on Sunday when both teams kick off their regular-season campaign.