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Cardinals Still Counting On J.J. Nelson

Notes: Maintenance day for Golden; Run defense needs improvement

WR J.J. Nelson (left) could have a bigger impact with QB Josh Rosen throwing him passes.
WR J.J. Nelson (left) could have a bigger impact with QB Josh Rosen throwing him passes.

The Cardinals have a newfound vertical passing game with Josh Rosen at quarterback, and coach Steve Wilks still has trust in his biggest deep threat.

It has been a slow start for speedster J.J. Nelson, who has struggled to find consistent snaps through four games and has just one catch for four yards on the season. His biggest chance came last week against the Seahawks, when he burned double coverage and was in great position to haul in a bomb from Rosen.

The throw went through Nelson's hands and fell incomplete -- one of several crucial drops by Cardinals pass-catchers in Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Seahawks.

"I'm not down on J.J. nor the other receivers," Wilks said. "I think those guys are improving. You look at Chad (Williams' development). J.J. is a major part of that, being able to take the top off, as we call it, with his speed. That's a weapon that we like."

Nelson has averaged 18.4 yards per reception in his career and has gone over 500 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons.

The Cardinals didn't take many deep shots when Sam Bradford was the quarterback, but Rosen showed a proclivity to attack down the field in his first start. Rosen's insertion into the lineup could bring more chances for Nelson, which in turn could create more underneath opportunities.

"Everyone's usually got at least one dude who will terrify you with pure speed," Rosen said. "That will create separation. If you get hot and hit a couple deep balls, it will open up a lot of other guys. Even just one-on-one, they'll play way further off than they need to, and if they come up, you can run by them. It offers a lot of variety in what you can do."

MAINTENANCE DAY FOR MARKUS GOLDEN

Defensive end Markus Golden didn't practice on Wednesday, but Wilks said it was a rest day as Golden continues his comeback from a torn ACL.

"You still don't want to put a lot on him," Wilks said. "Being able to give him that day today, I think is good. He'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring), cornerback Bené Benwikere (spine) and defensive tackle Corey Peters (elbow) didn't practice but Wilks expects them all to play against the 49ers. Linebacker Josh Bynes (wrist), tight end Jermaine Gresham (Achilles), right tackle Andre Smith (elbow), cornerback Jamar Taylor (back) and tackle John Wetzel (shoulder) were limited.

For the 49ers, wideout Marquise Goodwin (hamstring/quad), tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee), wideout Dante Pettis (knee), center Weston Richburg (knee), cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) and tackle Joe Staley (knee) did not practice. Running back Matt Breida (shoulder) and guard Mike Person (knee) were limited.

RUN DEFENSE NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

Seahawks backup running back Mike Davis had 21 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, leading an attack that averaged 5.0 yards per carry. The Cardinals are No. 17 in the NFL in yards per carry allowed at 4.0, and 31st in rushing yards allowed at 141.3 per game.

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the season with a torn ACL, so the 49ers could emphasize the run against the Cardinals in Week 5.

San Francisco lost starting running back Jerick McKinnon for the season with a torn ACL but Breida is third in the NFL with 313 rushing yards at a 7.6 yards-per-carry clip.

"They haven't missed a beat," Wilks said.

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