Programming note: For comprehensive 49ers coverage from Arizona, watch SportsNet Central tonight at 6, 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
PHOENIX -- The best team in the NFC West through two weeks is not Seattle or the 49ers. It’s the Arizona Cardinals.
A Week 3 matchup between the 49ers and unbeaten Cardinals is a chance for Bruce Arians’ team to open some eyes around the league.
Meanwhile, the 49ers blew a 17-point lead against the Chicago Bears last week. And they enter this week with some questions that we’ll try to answer with another Saturday edition of 49ers Mailbag:
--Do u have any Info on Kap being listed on the injury report with a back issue? Last year his "hang nail" ended up being a lot more (Stephen Burke)
--What's the story with Kap's back? (John Richardson)
Just like a year ago, Colin Kaepernick’s status is not in question. He will play Sunday against the Cardinals, just as he did not miss a practice or a game a year ago with a foot injury that impacted his running ability.
Kaepernick gained 77 yards on 14 rushing attempts in the first two games. He has also been sacked five times. So he has taken some hits.
Any player who receives any kind of treatment from the 49ers’ staff is required to be placed on the NFL injury report. Kaepernick was not on the report Wednesday. But he was listed on Thursday.
This suggests he did not voice any concerns with his physical condition until after Wednesday’s practice.
“I didn’t hear him complain about anything the day after or the day after that,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “(He) still hasn’t complained about anything, but got some treatment. Practiced every day. Full.”
Harbaugh and the 49ers generally do not release any details of injuries beyond what they’re required to list on the injury report.
“He just had a little issue he was working through in practice,” Harbaugh said just prior to the 49ers’ trip to Arizona on Friday afternoon. “Practiced well.”
--It's early on, but what are the chances that Chris Cook is used to cover the opponent's bigger receivers rather than using Jimmy Ward? (Justin Cheng)
--Chris Cook has good size to go up against these receivers in Arizona. Will he be activated, he had a commendable preseason, right? (Matt Purcell)
Rookie Jimmie Ward will continue as the 49ers’ nickel back. And it’s doubtful that veteran Chris Cook will have a significant role in Sunday’s game.
Cook took his place in practice this week on the scout team – that is, running the Cardinals defense to give a good look for the 49ers’ No. 1 offense during practices.
At the nickel back position, short area quickness is widely considered a lot more important than size. That’s why nickel backs around the league are not very big. Ward, who checked in at 5 foot 11 at the NFL scouting combine, is average height – if not, a little on the tall side – among players who fill his role.
Ward was in coverage on all three Brandon Marshall touchdown catches from the slot. Marshall made an amazing, one-handed leaping catch. He boxed Ward out for the second touchdown. And, on the third, Jay Cutler made a good throw against good coverage from Ward, who was defending Marshall on an out-breaking route.
The 49ers are a lot more inclined to chalk it up to experience and two really good plays, rather than bench their promising first-round draft pick.
“He had some plays that he’d like to play better, but overall he played OK,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
There's no question Cook played well in the four exhibition games. But that's completely irrelevant because of the lower level of competition with teams rarely playing their best players. The 49ers put a lot more stock in what a player shows on the practice field and the meeting room.
Cook is 6-2. He is not ideally suited to play the slot receiver because of his size. Last season, he played 17 snaps in the slot for the Minnesota Vikings, according to Pro Football Focus. He was targeted six times, gave up four receptions for 160 yards and three touchdowns.
With Tramaine Brock out of action, Cook will be active for Sunday’s game. But starters Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox, as well as Ward will see a lot more action. Rookie Dontae Johnson has even seen more action than Cook up to this point.