Purdy good: Arizona native, 49ers to keep Cardinals on their toes in finale
Jan 7, 2023, 7:12 AM
TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals will get their first look at the Brock Purdy-led San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
But it’s a signal-caller the organization already knows a thing or two about.
A native to the Valley, Purdy grew up watching the very team he’ll take on in the regular season finale. His presence as a high school player wasn’t lost on the franchise, either, with the team honoring the former Perry Puma with the Cardinals High Player of the Year award in 2017.
Fast forward to this past offseason, and Purdy was among the rookie quarterbacks brought in for a workout following a college career at Iowa State that included a 2018 run-in with current Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury. That was Kingsbury’s final season with the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
It’s safe to say there’s some familiarity between the two sides.
“I remember (in 2018), I was like, ‘This is unreal that he’s a true freshman,'” Kingsbury said Monday. “It’s the same way he looks as a rookie quarterback — just the poise, the pocket presence, getting through his reads and going to the right spot with the ball.
“Can’t give (49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and QBs coach Brian Griese) enough credit for the job they’ve done with a rookie quarterback to step in like he’s done and not skip a beat. They even improved in some areas, (which) is really saying a lot.”
Poise and pocket presence were two things #AZCardinals HC Kliff Kingsbury hit on Monday when speaking on 49ers QB and AZ native Brock Purdy: pic.twitter.com/xHlMx2AzAu
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) January 2, 2023
It’s been no surprise to Kingsbury that the rookie has not only helped keep San Francisco afloat but in a position to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Since taking over for injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo in a Week 13 win over the Miami Dolphins, Purdy has completed 67.4% of his passes for 1,130 yards and 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. Purdy sports a QBR of 106.4 and is a perfect 4-0 as a starter.
“Brock is a starter, he’s no longer a backup,” Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday. “He’s played enough ball, he’s got enough snaps where you can see him as a starter. He is playing really good football … he’s playing at a really high level for a young guy.
“The quarterback is doing his job and he’s playing very well within their system. He’s no longer a backup in my mind. He’s playing at a high level as a starter. They can win a lot of games with him, he’s playing that well.”
The last pick of the 2022 NFL Draft has quickly gone from Mr. Irrelevant to anything but behind his steady play.
And it doesn’t hurt that Purdy is surrounded by playmakers.
Among the top names Joseph and the rest of the unit will be tasked with limiting Sunday are wide receiver and Arizona State alum Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle. If he plays, Deebo Samuel is another tough cover for the Cardinals.
Starting every game this season, Aiyuk currently paces all 49ers pass catchers in receptions (74), yards (956) and plays of at least 20 yards (15). He trails only Kittle (nine) in receiving touchdowns with eight and has produced 379 yards after the catch.
As a team, the 49ers are fifth in total offense (369.1 yards per game) and sixth in scoring (25.8 points per contest).
And you can’t forget about do-it-all RB Christian McCaffrey, though the back has logged missed practices this week with ankle and knee injuries.
McCaffrey has been a problem in Shanahan’s offense, putting up 1,165 total yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games played. He’s scored as a runner, receiver and quarterback since joining the 49ers via trade in Week 7.
Simply put, the weapons at Purdy’s disposal are aplenty, giving the QB added confidence when under center. That’s what a rookie needs to thrive in the NFL.
And up against an Arizona squad without some of its key playmakers and ready to turn the page into the future — on top of a top-ranked defense led by Nick Bosa’s NFL-leading 17.5 sacks — the Cardinals could be in store for their first bad memory of Purdy when the dust settles.