There will be an unfamiliar face leading a very familiar opponent when the San Francisco 49ers come to the desert to take on our very own Arizona Cardinals. Seeing a new face at QB for the Niners hasn't been an uncommon site considering that Shaun Hill will be the fourth different QB to lead the Niners against the Cardinals in as many games. The three previous games the Cardinals saw Alex Smith, Trent Dilfer and JT O'Sullivan at QB but Shaun is a guy that they have not at all first hand. So how does Hill compare to his counterparts and what's his story?
Shaun Hill was undrafted following his senior year at Maryland but caught on with the Minnesota Vikings. He only really played his senior season at Maryland after being a backup his junior year, but still finished with 3,158 yards and 19 touchdowns. Hill's career with the Vikings consisted of appearing in one game at the end of the 2005 season in which he took two snaps (both of which were kneeldowns). Most of Hill's experience to this day though came in the now defunct NFL Europe. He started the 2003 season for the Amsterdam Admirals and led the league in passing (2,258 yards) and finished second in touchdowns with 13. Hall wouldn't appear in another professional game until the 2007 season when he came in for an injured Trent Dilfer against the Vikings. The Niners would lose the game 27-7 but Hill would complete 22 of 27 passes (81.5%) for 181 yards and a touchdown. Hill would start the following week and pick up his first NFL win in his first NFL start. He'd complete 21 of 28 (75%) passes for 197 yards and a touchdown en route to a 20-13 win. Hill's second consecutive start would result in his second win (21-19) over the Bucs even though his numbers weren't quite as good. He completed less than 50% of his passes and threw for just 123 yards but he did throw three TDs versus just a single interception. Hall would miss the 2007 season finale with back spasms but his play was promising enough that the Niners signed him to three year contract in the off season. Hall never really factored into the Niners starting job during camp though and might not have even made the team had it not been for a shoulder injury to Alex Smith. He ended up as the second QB though and got into his first game of the season last week. He finished the game 15 of 23 for 173 yards and a touchdown.
When you look at Hill's short career a couple of things become pretty evident. First, despite being in the league for seven years and being 28 years old, he's very inexperienced. He's appeared in four games (starting two) in his career and has logged just over 100 pass attempts (102). Hill also won't beat you with deep pass plays considering that even though he's got a good completion percentage (67.6%), his yards per attempt is below seven (6.6). Part of that is no doubt due to the coaching staff switching to a game plan that involves more of a short, quick passing game. He's got a decent arm, so it's not like the ability isn't there, but that's often a game plan that protects young quarterbacks. He's also got above average athleticism for a quarterback, in fact he often played wide receiver and defensive back on the scout team in Minnesota, so he has the ability to escape the rush.
So how should the Cardinals attack Shaun Hill and the Niners' offense? I expect to see Clancy Pendergast come out in some new defensive schemes to give Hill something he hasn't seen on tape as well as some new blitzes. Anything they can do to get Hill thinking instead of reacting before the snap will be a positive. One of Hill's strengths is making quick decisions and getting the ball out of his hands so I could also seeing them running more press coverage than normal. Knocking recievers off of thier routes and disrupting the timing is the quickest way to disrupt a short, quick game. One final key component will be forcing Hill to beat them. I expect to see Adrian Wilson down in the box on nearly every down daring Hill to try and go over the top. Shutting down Frank Gore and putting the entire offense on Shaun Hill should be a very big part of the game plan. Agree/Disagree? How should they attack Hill? Anything about his game that scares you? Hawk, do you remember Hill's days in NFL Europe?