TEMPE, Ariz. -- Darnell Dockett didn’t stop.
During the four weeks linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended, Dockett badgered him with text messages and conversations about what could’ve been had Washington been on the field. Dockett specifically singled out two games, the St. Louis and New Orleans losses, over and over.
Had Washington been defending Rams tight end Jared Cook and Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, the Cardinals could’ve been undefeated, Dockett would tell Washington. Sunday against San Francisco’s Vernon Davis, Washington has his chance to prove Dockett right.
Around the Cardinals locker room, the widespread belief is that Washington is the answer to handling the big, fast tight ends. However, the coaches don’t necessarily agree.
“Daryl’s not a tight end stopper,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “Daryl’s a piece to our defense.”
Washington is an inside linebacker, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made sure to point out. If Davis lines up out wide, Washington won’t be chasing him.
Someone might want to, however. How Davis plays has been a sign of how the Niners will fare. When he’s had a touchdown catch, the 49ers win. In San Francisco wins this season, Davis had 11 catches for 204 yards and four touchdowns. In losses, he’s had three catches for 20 yards and zero touchdowns.
The formula seems easy: Stop Davis and you stop the 49ers.
Washington will be part of the coverage team on Davis, who could be bracketed by the Cardinals, with a safety over the top and Washington underneath. Whoever goes outside to cover Davis, the other will be inside.
“It’s tough to defend a guy like that because he’s not your ordinary tight end,” Washington said. “He’s a guy who can block and who can run like a small receiver. Then he’s big, at that, so you have to be able to be physical with him but also be able to run up with him because he can get up into you and push off and separate kinda like [Atlanta tight end] Tony Gonzalez does. I match up with him pretty well.
“We have a good game plan for him. I’ll just say that.”