Tag Archives: Colin Kaepernick

Arizona Cardinals: Battle Tested, Battle Scarred

Aug 22, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro (7) looks on against the San Diego Chargers at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Chargers won 22-19. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“The two forces met with a fearful din of spears and bossed shields, clashing in a fierce and furious melee of bronze-breasted fighters. And there the screams of the dying were mingled with cries of triumph, and blood flowed over the earth.”
– Homer, the Iliad

Last Sunday night’s hostilities between Arizona and Seattle, for those who prize defense above all, crackled with electricity and treachery. The malice between the teams has intensified since 2013, the year coach Bruce Arians took the helm of a Cardinals team that had seemed content with occasional playoff appearances, like most teams. Arians talked Super Bowl from his first press conference, and Cardinals Nation regarded him curiously, as if he spoke a dialect they couldn’t quite grasp. But Arians guided Arizona to a 10-6 mark that season after the team turned in a lackluster 5-11 mark the year before. Something like hope had lodged inside players and fans.

But with hope comes heartbreak, and the Cardinals were home flipping burgers when Seattle eviscerated Denver 43-8 in the 2013 Super Bowl. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll lifted the Lombardi Trophy that day. Seattle, Arizona’s division foe, held the prize that the Cardinals had begun to believe could someday be theirs. A rivalry was born.

In recent years, Arizona has won two games up in notoriously noisy and difficult CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Seahawk fans, dubbed “The 12th Man,” are so loud the stadium broke the Guinness record for crowd noise, registering 131.9 decibels following a sack of San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick on Sep.15, 2013.

Coming into last Sunday night’s contest, Seattle had taken three straight in University of Phoenix Stadium, silencing Cardinals fans (known as “the Red Wave”). Those losses haven’t sat well with Arians and the Cardinals, and desire had risen in the blood to protect home soil this time and pull within a half game of the Seahawks in the standings.

It was an old-fashioned slobber-knocker. All-out grappling on the line, big hits, and stifling defense, particularly on the Cardinals’ side. Arizona held Seattle to just 65 net yards in regulation. 65. That is record-setting territory, and would be lauded for decades were it not for the Cardinals’ special teams, which suffered a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, and a potential game-winning 24-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal in overtime that doinked off the left upright. That’s shorter than an extra point, and after the game Catanzaro said, “I make that kick 999,999 times out of a million.” In the end the result shone clearly on the scoreboard: 6-6—a rare NFL tie.

It could have been worse. After the Catanzaro miss, Seattle drove down the field to give their reliable kicker Stephen Hauschka a 27-yard attempt to steal the game for the Seahawks and extend their division lead over the Cardinals to 2.5 games. Hauschka could make that kick with his eyes closed and maybe he should have—he watched wide-eyed as he swung the ball well left, missing not only the uprights but also the kicking net. Arizona dodged a bullet, Seattle’s sideline blinked in disbelief, and Coach Carroll’s mouth seemed frozen in a version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

It was a brutal contest all around, and it left Cardinals fans smoldering. Blaming his final kick, some fans would just as soon Catanzaro took up gardening, or maybe the bassoon. They’re calling for GM Steve Keim to pluck a new kicker from the pool of NFL castoffs, whose fortunes rise and fall like a craps shooter’s at the Bellagio. Outside of the top-tier, placekickers can run hot and cold. Why not bring in another who might help the Cards run the table?

But the youthful Catanzaro has proven reliable in the past and blame should be spread across the whole of special teams. There have been injuries, bad snaps, and poor blocking. It has been a stark reminder of the importance of the underestimated third phase of football.

From my seat, I’m encouraged by a Cardinals defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown in nine quarters, which they haven’t achieved since 1970. Before every snap, Seattle QB Russell Wilson saw them shifting and lurching, advancing and falling back all across the line. An attack was coming, but from where? The Cardinals prowled like panthers, with a hunch in the shoulder, all potential energy, ready to race snarling through the line and lunge at Wilson, intent on dropping him to the earth and picking the meat from his ribs. It was a dominant performance, and if the struggling offense can find its footing, a second half run is inevitable.

For now, Arizona sits at 3-3-1, and trails Seattle by 1.5 games in the division. The Cardinals seek redemption today against a Carolina team that knocked them out of last year’s playoffs. Beyond that lies a bye week–a week to lick wounds, retool, take a hard look in the mirror and come out fighting for the long run to the finish.

-Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

What To Expect from The 49ers This Season

In what was a mostly lackluster preseason from the Santa Cla err I mean San Francisco 49ers, here’s a look at what to expect from the team this season.


Blaine Gabbert will be the starting quarterback.

It was expected all along that Colin Kaepernick would not be the starting quarterback for this team. It is amazing to me and I’m sure many others, that Kap is still even on this team. Kap missing practices and the first two preseason games basically ended whatever quarterback battle existed. It is not like Gabbert has gone out and played well to earn the starting spot either. He’s still Blaine Gabbert, a quarterback good enough to win you 4 or 5 games. Oh, and if the 49ers group of quarterbacks wasn’t already laughable, the team went out and signed Christian Ponder, basically a Gabbert 2.0. The 49ers are left with two underachieving quarterbacks from the 2011 draft class as well as Kap who is a shell of his former self. There’s still a chance Kaepernick takes the field at some point this season because we all know Gabbert is going to struggle, which could lead to a quarterback by committee approach by the staff. From a fans perspective, there is no way in hell I want to see Blaine Gabbert line up under center for my favorite team. Kaepernick is at least a has-been, Gabbert is a never-been. Let’s see what Kap can do under Chip Kelly’s offensive system and see if the new coaching staffs can rekindle the spark that Kaepernick once had. For now it will Blaine Gabbert slotted as QB1 week 1 against the rams.

The O-Line will be something to look forward to

The 49ers offensive line in 2015 was about as bad as an offensive line could possibly be. The line consisted of Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Marcus Martin, Jordan Devey and Erik Pears. Martin, a 3rd round pick from 2014 who has underperformed every year, and then Pears/Devey, a couple of veterans who were awful in the run game as well as pass protection.

There are couple big reasons why the 49ers offensive line will be better this season. The first is the return of formerly retired, Pro Bowl tackle Anthony Davis. Back in the Harbaugh days (the glory days!), Davis was one of the leaders in the trenches. In June 2015, Davis announced he would retire for one season in order to get his body right. Now AD is back, but he isn’t returning to his position at right tackle. Trent Brown, a 7th round pick from 2014, shined in the last 2 games of the 2015 season as well as in training game and has forced Davis to switch positions to guard. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown went through the entire preseason (41 pass blocking attempts) without allowing a QB pressure. Von Miller, reigning SB MVP, even acknowledged Browns progress by calling him “one of the better tackles there is in the NFL” Miller brought up Brown in an interview about tackles that give the lethal pass rusher the most trouble. A 7th rounder receiving praise from the best defensive player in the NFL and forcing a former Pro Bowler to change positions is pretty impressive. AD was expected to move from RT and take the starting RG spot, but it seems that may not be happening. It was announced the other day that Davis was contemplating retiring again only for us to learn he will be back but is now refusing to play guard. Whether Davis starts at guard or is the primary backup at RT, he at least provides the team with depth that they lacked last year. In line to start at RG then would be Andrew Tiller. Tiller played a decent amount in the 2nd half last season, ranking 27th out of 82 qualifiers at guard according to Pro Football Focus. The team also spent a 1st round pick on Joshua Garnett, a left guard who’s been impressive in the preseason. Garnett is working his way up the depth chart and wouldn’t surprise anybody if he were starting some point during the season. The team also still has pro bowler Joe Staley. If you’re searching for something to look forward to watching from the team this season, the offensive line should be it.

49ers WR depth chart will be the worst in the NFL

If you ask anybody what the saddest movies they’ve ever seen are, you’d get responses like The Notebook, Old Yeller and Titanic. Watching the 49ers wide receivers this season might be sadder than all those movies combined.

This WR core may be the worst I’ve seen from the team in as long as I can remember. Yes, even worse than when the team had Brett Swain as one of its core receivers in the 2012 playoffs. Torrey Smith, a guy you want as your #2 receiver at best, is at the top of the depth chart. Starting along Smith will be Quinton Patton, a 4th round bust from the 2013 draft class. That means a guy who has 1 touchdown in the last 3 years will be the #2 receiver on my favorite team…Woo! The #3 and #4 receivers will be guys that weren’t even on the team 3 weeks ago. Jeremy Kerley who had 16 catches all of last season and Rod Streater, who has 10 catches in the last 2 seasons, will be the #3 and #4 receivers. The only positive is 6th round pick Aaron Burbridge has made enough of an impression in training camp to make the final 53 man roster. The 49ers depth chart took a big blow by losing Bruce Ellington (torn hamstring) for the season as he was expected to have a breakout year. However, as the depth chart stands now, the 49ers have to have arguably the worst group of pass catchers in the league. It also doesn’t help that Blaine Gabbert will be throwing the rock to them.

Defense will keep team in some games

A few years ago the 49ers defense put fear in all opponents eyes. The team was filled with badasses and guys that just wanted to smack you in the mouth. One of my favorite plays in 49ers history was when Donte Whitner knocked Pierre Thomas out and forced a fumble on the Saints first drive in the 2012 playoffs (Also my favorite NFL game of all time.) The defense of the 49ers is what carried them for years. Due to retirements, injuries and free agency that defense isn’t close to what it used to be, but its still probably the teams biggest strength. Led by the last two 1st round picks (and former college teammates) Deforest Buckner and Arik Armstead, the team has a front 7 that has a chance to be pretty special. Buckner tallied 10.5 sacks in his last season at Oregon and Armstead received rave reviews during this past training camp. One of the best parts of the defense last season was 2014 1st round pick Jimmie Ward ascension to starting cornerback. While he struggled in his rookie year, Ward excelled at the slot corner position last year. With impressive young players in Buckner, Armstead and Ward along with veterans Bowman, Bethea and Reid, the 49ers defense should hold their ground and keep this team in a lot of games.

Going to be a long season

Based on the preseason, the roster and common sense, this is going to be a long season for the Red and Gold. The window can close fast in the NFL as the Niners have seen. A few years ago they were the darlings of the NFL, always vying for the Super Bowl. Now they are the favorites to land the top pick in the 2017 draft. Oh and they are also tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the toughest schedule in the NFL this season so that’s really great. As for something to look forward to, it will be interesting to see the development of some of the young and promising defensive players and it’ll be interesting to see how Chip’s offensive system works with this team. No matter how depressing this season gets for 49ers fans just remember that by week 8 we’ll have Warriors basketball back to distract us all!