With the Arizona Cardinals playing the San Francisco 49ers, we felt it was a good opportunity to share information between our site and Niners Nation. In the first of some crossblog posts, we will focus on this question -- who are the under the radar players to watch for on both sides of the ball for both teams.
We look at one player on either side of the ball.
Here is what Niners Nation's David Fucillo says:
I'd like to see one of the 49ers wide receivers earn a spot here, but aside from Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, none of the other aspects of the passing game are stepping up sufficiently. Instead, let's look at running back LaMichael James. The 49ers run game is dominated by Frank Gore, with Kendall Hunter getting the remaining carries. James started the season inactive while recovering from an MCL sprain, but he is healthy now, and slowly working his way into the rotation. Against the Texans, James got some late carries, rushing four times for 31 yards. The 49ers win on the ground, and adding a dynamic athlete like James into the mix adds an additional wrinkle. He didn't get his break last year until after Kendall Hunter was hurt and Brandon Jacobs tweeted his way off the team. The question now is how much of an opportunity he'll get with Gore and Hunter playing at the moment.
The guy to watch is defensive lineman Ray McDonald. This is his third year as a starter, and he is my under the radar choice for two reasons. The first is that he is lost in the shadow of Justin Smith. McDonald does not accumulate huge stats, but he is frequently a key part of defensive stops. The 3-4 defensive lineman often labors in anonymity. The second reason is due to injury. This past Sunday, McDonald suffered a partial tear of his bicep tendon. He is planning on playing through it and getting surgery in the offseason. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how he is affected on a week-to-week basis.
Now for my thoughts:
Arizona Cardinals offense:
This player has been the topic of a lot of discussion among Cardinals fans. They know all about him by now, but opponents might not. That would be running back Andre Ellington, Arizona's sixth round pick out of Clemson. He has been a dynamic playmaker in a part time role. He is used as a running back and a receiver. He has had some of the team's biggest offensive plays so far this season. He is averaging 6.7 yards per rush and 11.1 yards per catch. Of his 31 touches on the season, he has 15 first downs and a touchdown -- moving the chains or scoring on just over half of the time he gets the ball. You will have heard his name by the end of the game this week.
Arizona Cardinals defense:
This is actually a fairly tough task, as most of the players on defense are well known -- Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu.
So to go with a truly under the radar player, watch for Alameda Ta'amu, defensive tackle the team picked up off waivers in the preseason. He started the last two games and has been a force in the middle. He is the type of nose tackle you want to clog the middle and be a run stuffer. He has been exactly that. He started for the first time when Dan Williams was out because of the tragic death of his father. Ta'amu still started against Carolina. Williams is still listed as the starter on the team's depth chart, but Ta'amu is getting significant time. Against a team like the 49ers that likes to be physical and run the football, his number will get called often to try and stop them.
Cardinals fans and 49ers fans, are there other players that we should watch for?