NFC West: Oakland Riaders
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt won't get complaints from reporters by naming Kurt Warner his starting quarterback. Warner can be a terrific interview. He provided a detailed answer Saturday night when I asked him to differentiate between hunter and hunted in the race to become a starting quarterback:
I think there is a lot of pressure because there is the scrutiny of every throw. You have people looking at every single throw and you make a bad throw and you know people are going to start leaning one way or the other. That is the hard part. I think it's hard on both ends. Because one way or the other, when you are in a competition, people are scrutinizing every little thing and not everybody knows the details in every given situation.
That's where it gets hard because you get to the point sometimes where you start pressing or you start getting cautious and not playing your game because you're worried about making a mistake. ... You let one mistake start bothering you and feel like it affects you and it leads to another one and another one. ... Sometimes it locks you up more than frees you up to play your game.
That seemed to be the case with Matt Leinart against the Raiders. The Cardinals opened the game in conservative personnel (two backs, two tight ends, one receiver). Leinart threw deep for Larry Fitzgerald along the right sideline. As Whisenhunt noted, Fitzgerald didn't create as much space along the sideline as the Cardinals would have wanted. The Raiders' coverage, more aggressive than what most teams employ, probably dictated some of this. Leinart threw into coverage and the Raiders picked him off.
Leinart hasn't spoken publicly since the game. Warner wasn't particularly sharp against the Raiders. The competition might be getting to him as well. Warner:
I'm playing the game a little faster than I want to at this point in time. Coming in and knowing I'm only going to get a short period of time, trying to rush things and force things, that's not how we want to play.Whisenhunt hasn't made an announcement on a starting quarterback. An announcement could come as early as today. The starter is scheduled to address reporters Monday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Former Bengals defensive end Justin Smith made his 49ers debut Friday night. I saw him on the field for 11 snaps. The 49ers moved him around. Here's a play-by-play look at his first live action in a 49ers uniform:
- First down: Smith lines up at right outside linebacker. He pursues Raiders running back Justin Fargas from the back side, but misses the tackle. Smith might have run into a teammate.
- First down: Smith lines up at right outside linebacker. Raiders tight end John Madsen successfully blocks Smith without help on the play.
- Second down: Smith lines up at left defensive end. Raiders righth tackle Cornell Green blocks Smith. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell throws the ball before Smith has time to make an impact.
- Third down: Smith lines up at right defensive tackle. Smith gets pressure up the middle, helping teammate Ray McDonald sack Russell.
- First down: Smith lines up at left defensive end in a 5-2 alignment. Raiders tight end Zach Miller pushes him back about 5 yards on the play.
- Second down: Smith lines up at left outside linebacker in a 5-2 alignment. Russell throws the ball before Smith can make an impact.
- Third down: Smith lines up at left defensive tackle. Russell throws the ball before Smith can make an impact.
- First down: Smith lines up at right defensive end in a 4-3 alignment. Madsen, the tight end, blocks him. Smith sheds the block and tackles Darren McFadden after a 4-yard gain.
- Second down: Smith lines up at right defensive end in a 5-2 alignment. The Raiders ran away from him for a 3-yard gain.
- Third down: Smith lines up at left defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment. The Raiders run away from him. The Raiders block him effectively. The play gains 8 yards.
- First down: Smith lines up at right outside linebacker. The Raiders run away from him. Smith assists on the tackle after a 5-yard gain.
That was the last play for Smith, by my count. He was on the field for a non-play (negated by penalty), but I didn't count that one. While the 49ers moved Smith around, defenses tend to keep things simple when the games do not count. I would expect more from Smith once the 49ers start game-planning for opponents more seriously. His relentlessness should pay more dividends over the course of a full game, as opposed to a handful of snaps.