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Friday before the Niners, and confidence breeds trust

The play clock ran down last week and Steve Wilks made sure to call a timeout and save his rookie quarterback five yards. After the series was over, Josh Rosen came to the sideline.

“Coach, I got it,” Rosen told Wilks. “I’m looking at the play clock. Trust me. I got it.”

If there was a moment that drove home to Wilks what he had in his rookie quarterback during Rosen’s first start last week, that was it.

“Just that confidence, to say, ‘You know what? Let him go play. He’s in control.’ ” Wilks said. “Hey, I love it. I love the confidence. I love that he’s in control. I’m all for it.”

Every week will be a living test for Rosen. Last week, it was his first start. This week, it’ll be his first road start, when the defense has some video upon which to plan. Next week, it’ll be against a highly regarded defense in a dome in Minnesota. Then it’ll be a short week before playing the Broncos. There’s always a different measuring stick.

But the confidence from Rosen isn’t going to waver. That much is clear. That ultimately is a good thing for a guy trying to be an NFL quarterback, and eventually a great one.

“You’ve just got to be confident,” Rosen said. “Even if you’re not, you at least have to play the part and try to keep pushing until something good happens, then you start to gain it and keep going. So, I don’t know. It’s just kind of who I am. Not even football, but anything. I’m very confident in what I do. Even if I’m not, I’ll act like I am.”

-- You’re not going to expect someone as polished as Larry Fitzgerald to say anything different, but the wide receiver sounded genuine in his comments about offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. Fitz said he thinks the offense took a step in the right direction both of the last two weeks (I would agree, especially when Rosen got in the lineup) and insisted the players have to improve.

“It doesn’t matter what the call is, honestly,” Fitzgerald said. “Players execute it. We’ve got to do a better job of executing.” Fitzgerald brought up his first drop last week, a pass that should’ve been a first down. “That had nothing to do with Mike McCoy or any of the coaching staff,” Fitzgerald said.

Here’s my thing: After watching the roller coaster of the offense in 2013 as players tried to figure out Bruce Arians’ offense, maybe my patience is greater. But with the way things went with Rosen, I’m curious to see where this team is offensively over the next two or three games.

-- Last year in San Francisco, the Cardinals grinded out a win in a way that was so un-Arians-like. Adrian Peterson got the ball time and time again, 37 rushing attempts all told, for 157 yards, and records were set for a back his age and it was an amazing story. At one point, during the game, though, somebody – and we’ll keep that quiet for now – let me know “David Johnson would’ve had 300.”

That isn’t to denigrate what Peterson did but instead highlight what heights Johnson can reach. At that point, Johnson was obviously out and this year is a new team. But Drew Stanton was the quarterback so it’s not like the Cards had a dynamic passing game at that point. Can Johnson get loose Sunday? I mean, no one is waiting on 300 yards or 37 carries, but Johnson’s first 100-yard game would go a long way in trying to get that initial win.

-- On the other side of the ball, the rushing defense has been disappointing – the Cardinals are ranked next-to-last -- and you can hear it in defensive coordinator Al Holcomb’s voice when the subject comes up. This week he was talking about the issues on the edge, where the Seahawks – and others – gashed the Cardinals.

“It has been a problem, it continues to show up, and to be quite frank with you, we’re not doing a good job playing with our hands at the edge of the defense,” Holcomb said. “A lot of it is our hand violence, plain and simple.”

I love the term “hand violence,” but it essentially means having active hands in battling blockers against the run. Holcomb said edge defenders have to find ways to buy more time for the pursuit, and in setting the edge, it’s not just trying to stand your ground out there but fighting when doing it. “You can’t just run sideways and get knocked out of there.”

-- The 49ers, even though top running back Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season before it even started, are sixth in the NFL is rushing.

-- That run defense isn’t particularly helped with banged-up linemen like Robert Nkemdiche (foot) or Markus Golden (knee). Nkemdiche apparently had a reoccurrence this week with that foot that put him on the sidelines in the preseason. Meanwhile, I don’t think Golden’s knee issue is anything more than the irritating ups and downs of a guy coming off a serious ACL tear. Ask Tyrann Mathieu circa 2014 and 2016 about that.

-- The Cardinals have won three straight at Levi's Stadium. It's been a good place for them to play.

See you Sunday.

Gresham Before Niners

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