When Byron Leftwich calls his first game as offensive coordinator on Sunday, David Johnson's usage will be under the microscope, but a more nuanced change could also be set in motion.
Coach Steve Wilks and multiple players have spoken this week about a shift in the pass protection plan. The Cardinals have had a tough time keeping heat off quarterback Josh Rosen, which has torpedoed plays even when a good one was called.
The idea is to go away from generic protection plans and focus more on stopping the best players on the other side. Chicago's Khalil Mack and Denver's Von Miller are superstars who have had a major impact against the Cardinals this season.
"We're not blocking it like it's circles on the paper," left tackle D.J. Humphries said. "That's kind of what you expect from a (former quarterback like Leftwich) that's been back there and felt that pressure."
Rosen said one idea would be keeping in a running back to help block even when the play calls for a pass route. There could also be an increase in seven- and eight-man protection schemes. Coach Steve Wilks said every offensive coordinator, either new or with experience, needs the offensive line to give the quarterback time.
"I think Byron has done an excellent job in trying to put those guys in protection to try to help Josh out a little bit," Wilks said.
The line hopes to get a personnel boost in addition the projected schematic one, as starting guards Mike Iupati (back) and Justin Pugh (hand) both practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday after missing last week's game.
ROSEN PRACTICES, SAYS TOE IS FINE
Rosen didn't practice on Monday but returned in a limited capacity on Wednesday. He injured his big toe on the final offensive play against the Broncos, but has been moving around well and will be ready to go against the 49ers.
"I bent it back a little bit, but I'll be fine," Rosen said.
Linebacker Josh Bynes (wrist) and cornerback Jamar Taylor (back) were also limited. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), safety Tre Boston (shoulder/ribs) and guard Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring) didn't practice.
Running back Matt Breida (ankle), wide receiver Pierre Garcon (shoulder/knee) and tackle Joe Staley (not injury-related) didn't practice for the 49ers. Those limited were guard Mike Person (knee), wide receiver Dante Pettis (knee), center Weston Richburg (knee), cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and cornerback Jimmie Ward (hamstring).
WE MEET AGAIN
Rosen is preparing for only his fifth career start, but will already be facing the 49ers for the second time. While it's not usually in this quick of succession, every NFL teams plays its division foes twice a year. Rosen was 10-of-25 for 170 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting.
"It's a little frustrating that I didn't play great against them, so I have to keep watching my own film, seeing me miss guys," Rosen said. "But, maybe a little bit (easier to prepare). That's something new in the NFL compared to college. In college, you play a team every year but they lose a quarter of their team."
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during Thursday night's game against Denver at State Farm Stadium