In a division where keeping up with the Joneses is important just to have a chance at the playoffs — and goodness knows the Seahawks have been the Joneses for a couple of seasons now — the Cardinals feel like they have made strides to compete with Seattle. Their free agent class filled holes in the front seven of the defense and on the interior of the offensive line. More importantly, their quarterback is doing well in rehab. The Seahawks, meanwhile, added arguably the most dangerous tight end in the NFL. The Rams bolstered their defensive line with Nick Fairley and think they have upgraded at quarterback with Nick Foles (at least, he should be healthy enough to play.)
Then there are the 49ers, who have gone through one rough offseason, which started when they moved on from successful coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Niners got the shocking news young linebacker Chris Borland decided to leave the game instead of risking his long-term health to play. Borland was supposed to be the guy who filled in for Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who retired because his oft-injured feet ended his hopes for a comeback. Defensive lineman Justin Smith likely will retire. Then they allowed multiple free agents to leave, like running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati (who came to Arizona), linebacker Dan Skuta and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. They probably won’t bring back Michael Crabtree either.
Now, the Niners have added some pieces. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Darnell Dockett. Lions running back Reggie Bush (although he may be beyond his productive years.) But the way things have gone, it’ll be tough for the 49ers to right the decline they went through in 2014. That comes with the QB caveat all teams have — if Colin Kaepernick emerges as a star, that covers most issues.
While it could be considered the “offseason from hell,” the Cardinals did have one of recent vintage that they could put up in any argument. It’s tough to forget the offseason after 2009. In case you have forgotten, a refresher: quarterback Kurt Warner retired, safety Antrel Rolle was released for cap reasons (and subsequently signed with the Giants), linebacker Karlos Dansby left as a free agent and Anquan Boldin was traded. All were still playing at high/Pro Bowl levels. Those were a gut punch of transactions that eventually took out a coaching staff and brought the Cardinals to the Bruce Arians/Steve Keim era.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Chris Borland, Chris Culliver, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Skuta, Darnell Dockett, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, NFC West, Patrick Willis, Perrish Cox, Rams, Reggie Bush, Seahawks, Torrey Smith
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Next week, Ray Horton figures to get at least one if not several inquiries to interview for vacant head coaching jobs. He already had one last year – with the Rams – and as a minority candidate whose unit has played very good football this season, Horton figures to attract interest.
Horton didn’t want to necessarily go there today, his final day of meeting the media this season.
“I would say today I’m just trying to be the best D-coordinator in the league and I didn’t do it (this season),” Horton said. “We didn’t accomplish our goals. The rest of that stuff usually takes care of itself and usually teams that win more are rewarded that well.”
That said, when asked when he would know if he was ready for a head coaching job, Horton acknowledged, “A couple years ago – (although) you never know until you get there.”
Horton’s interview with the Rams reportedly went well and he had no reason to think he wouldn’t duplicate the feat. “I think if you are confident in what you do, every interview would be good,” he said. “I feel I’m prepared, smart, knowledgeable, humble and whatever goes with whatever that entails.”
None of that means Horton won’t be defensive coordinator in Arizona next year. A lot will happen across the league over the next few weeks. There is a lot of unknown about the Cards themselves. Horton said he isn’t thinking about that.
“All I know is I am going to San Francisco in the morning and I’m not going there to get any sourdough bread,” Horton said. “I’m going there to play a football game.”
— With left tackle Nate Potter upgraded to limited Friday and listed as questionable to play, we’ll see who gets the call at the spot – him or D’Anthony Batiste. You wonder how much the 49ers will work to get Aldon Smith the three sacks he needs to tie the NFL record in that stat, and you wonder if Brian Hoyer – who looks pretty aware in the pocket – can make a difference with his decision-making.
— It does help that the 49ers will be without DT Justin Smith, however.
— Horton said he thought the 49ers have changed their playcalling after installing Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback in place of Alex Smith.
“You don’t see as many shifts, as many extra linemen in the game,” Horton said. “(Kaepernick) adds an element to run the ball. It will be an interesting experiment to see what they think after the season is over.”
— In case you missed it, here’s the list of 2013 opponents for the Cards, home and away.
— Heading into the league’s final weekend, the Cardinals currently have the ninth pick in the first round of the draft. Given the matchups in the final game – and given the Cards’ fairly strong strength of schedule – it’s going to be difficult to move much higher if the team loses to the 49ers (a win would drop them mid-first-round. About 15 or 16, I would guess). There might be a chance to move to No. 7, realistically.
— Veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday – who could be playing in his final NFL game Sunday as he contemplates retirement once again – has high hopes for a lot of the younger defenders on the Cardinals and what they can become.
One of those guys is nose tackle Dan Williams, about whom Holliday is bullish about his future.
“He can be one of the best nose guards in this league,” Holliday said. “Because of his athleticism, because of his size and strength. And now he’s become a student of the game.”
— For this week’s episode of “Season In Focus” (airing Saturday at 7 a.m. on ABC-15), there will be Adrian Wilson Wired, the best of Cardinals Chronicles for 2012, the best moments of the season at University of Phoenix Stadium, and a spotlight on record-breaking punter Dave Zastudil.
— I will admit I hope Daryl Washington can get his 10th sack.
— The Cardinals had all kinds of problems tackling the 49ers the last time they met, one of the reasons Smith’s 18-for-19 passing day turned so effective (232 yards, three touchdowns). Can’t have that happen again.
— The 49ers have a lot on the line. We’ll see if the Cardinals can mess with that at all.
Tags: 49ers, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, D'Anthony Batiste, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, draft, Justin Smith, Nate Potter, Ray Horton, Vonnie Holliday
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