The Arizona Cardinals defense wasn't legendary on Sunday but they did enough to ensure the Niner offense couldn't settle into a rhythm or establish themselves on the ground or through the air. The defensive front seven was did their part to create havoc and the secondary nearly shut out the Niners wide outs.
Defensive Line: Considering that the defensive line was down to their third string nose tackle, they did a decent job of limiting Frank Gore. Bryan Robinson certainly looked like he got worn down towards the end of the first half and with Robinson being handled on the inside, the rest of the line was able to key on Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith. That didn't stop Dockett from doing his part though and he made plays all over the field finishing with five tackles and a forced fumble. Smith had a less productive game but did recover a fumble and finished with a tackle. Rookies Calais Campbell and Kenny Iwebema both saw some playing time but didn't do too terribly much to stand out. Given the injury situation at the nose, it's hard not to be somewhat impressed with what they were able to accomplish. Grade: B
Linebackers: You don't have to do much more than look at a boxscore to understand the impact that the linebacking corps had on this game. Travis LaBoy wreaked all kinds of havoc during the game and finished with four tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. LaBoy wasn't the only guy who made plays though as Karlos Dansby led the teams in tackles (7) and Gerald Hayes chipped in with 6 tackles and a sack. Chike Okeafor lived in the Niner backfield and even though he had some issues with missed tackles, he finished with two tackles and at least a couple of quarterback pressures. Bertrand Berry was 'Mr Versatile' lining up at OLB, DE and even NT in passing situations. He finished a sack and a forced fumble. Clark Haggans biggest contribution was on special teams but he also chipped in with a tackle. Grade: A+
Corners: The trio of corners, Roderick Hood, Eric Green, and DRC, only finished with four tackles combined but a lot of that had to do with the offenses inability to get the ball to their wide receivers. The Niners' wide outs finished the game with just four catches so the corners certainly did their jobs. DRC also made an appearance on defense and it wasn't how we expected. It looked like he lined up on the outside receiver and Green slid down into the nickel role at times. Grade: A
Safeties: The combo of Adrian Wilson and Antrel Rolle didn't get challegned much in the passing game because the Niners had trouble getting receivers down the field. They did allow two passes over 30 yards but most of thier work was in support of the running game. Rolle missed a couple of tackles and at times didn't look completely comfortable at safety but he also flashed the ability that shows why so many think he can be a great safety. A-dub was his usual havoc wreaking self with four tackles and an interception. He did pick up a penalty though with an offsides call and he looked out of place on the deep pass to Vernon Davis, but overall he was solid. The deep-duo didn't get tested much and probably won't this week either but their time is coming. Aaron Francisco and Matt Ware both saw some playing time but didn't much to stand out either in a bad or good way, although Francisco did pick up a couple of tackles. Grade: B
Overall it was a really solid opening performance for the defensive unit and even though there are areas that need to be shored up, they certainly look like a talented and deep group. It's too early to get excited about a good game against 'offensively challenged' San Fran but I didn't see any indications that this unit can't be as good as we all expected them to be this season. Thoughts? Agree/Disagree? What grades would you have given them and what area needs the most improvement?