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No. 1 vs. No. 2, And Wednesday Before The Niners

Sure, Vance Joseph would have loved to have Nick Bosa as a bookend pass rusher with Chandler Jones. That’d be quite the defense. And sure, now that the Cardinals took quarterback Kyler Murray with the first pick in April’s draft – allowing the 49ers to take Bosa No. 2 – Joseph has a good reason to back the choice of Murray. That’s his team’s QB, after all.

But Joseph also has been a head coach in this league, coaching a team in Denver that had two great pass rushers (Von Miller and Nick Chubb) and no QB, and he knows how that turned out too.

“Having a franchise quarterback is so key for building your franchise,” Joseph said, with the Cardinals set to play Bosa and the 49ers Thursday night. “Taking Kyler was a no-brainer in my opinion. Obviously Bosa is a great player having great year, but Kyler is a special player and you have to have one (at QB) to win in this league.”

All this is true. But it’s still interesting to consider this No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, what is, and what might’ve been.

“Loved him,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Loved him as a player, I’d love to go to the club with him. … We had couple of dinners with him. One of our favorite players in the draft, on and off the field.”

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said while he was never 100 percent sure Bosa would be there to pick, the signs did point to the Cards taking Murray. Bosa, meanwhile, told reporters this week the Cardinals were “selling me” on playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 if he came to Arizona.

“I’m sure I would have gotten into it in time,” Bosa said. “But I think for my full potential to be reached, I think I’m in the right place.”

Bosa has been excellent. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for a second time for last Sunday’s game, and he has seven sacks in seven games. But Murray has been everything the Cardinals had wished for as well, not only because he has progressed faster than expected, but also because of what he means for the future – just as Joseph had said.

He’ll still have to deal with Bosa twice a year, though, starting with Thursday night.

“He’s a freak,” Murray said with a smile. “He’s a good player, for sure. I’ll have to keep my head on a swivel.”

-- It’s not often when the top two picks in the draft are offense-defense (or defense-offense) and also happen to play each other as rookies. The last five times it has happened (with the top pick listed first):

  • 2017: Browns DE Myles Garrett vs. Bears QB Mitch Trubisky (Bears won, 20-3.)
  • 2010: Rams QB Sam Bradford vs. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (Lions won, 44-6)
  • 2008: Dolphins T Jake Long vs. Rams DE Chris Long (Dolphins won, 16-12)
  • 1997: Rams T Orlando Pace vs. Raiders DT Darrell Russell (Raiders won, 35-17)
  • 1994: Bengals DT Dan Wilkinson vs. Colts RB Marshall Faulk (Bengals won, 17-13)

-- The focus, understandably, has been on the injury issues at running back, but if Justin Murray can’t start at right tackle, that would be just as big of a problem – in large part because of the defensive line the 49ers present. If there is a change up front, however the Cardinals handle it, that will be something to watch.

-- Not trying to tempt fate before the Cardinals face a good defense, but it is actually kind of astonishing the Cardinals (and Murray) have only turned it over four times this season, all of them interceptions thrown by Murray. Half a season in and nobody has lost a fumble? Half a season and the rookie QB only has four picks? The Cards are best in the league at protecting the ball – the Titans and Saints have only turned it over six times. Meanwhile, the 49ers are tied for third with 16 takeaways (the Patriots already have 25. Amazing).

-- Yeah, about that tempting fate line. Who am I kidding. I don’t believe in jinxes or tempting fate or whatever.

-- I noted that Patrick Peterson was talking with Kyler Murray at the end of the game in New Orleans. Peterson said this week he just wants to help Murray through the process of evolving as a leader.

“I told him during the game, he’s not a rookie,” Peterson said. “If you want to, not necessarily call anyone out but if you feel like you need to say something, say it. You are technically the CEO of our football team, a young CEO of the football team. If you believe it or not, your voice means something. It matters.”

-- A reminder that the roof will be open for the game, so dress accordingly. It’s been getting a little chilly in the evening.

-- Zane Gonzalez’s nice year continues, with his 76 points leading the NFL. The kicker is a prime candidate for a potential contract extension at some point.

“I want to be able to duplicate that from a success standpoint,” Drake said. “I’m not returning kicks, but just getting in the end zone. I haven’t gotten there this whole season. That’d be a fresh start.”

-- Larry Fitzgerald and Richard Sherman have faced each other a number of times. The two are friends. Fitz said this week he always enjoys going against Sherman, and Sherman was effusive in his praise for Fitz.

“Incredibly cagey, incredibly talented, but he made me raise my level as a rookie (in 2011),” Sherman told reporters in the Bay Area. “He’s going to show you subtle moves, subtle tricks that no one else gives you, and he’s really good at them. … I appreciate going against him the most.”

It will be interesting, this matchup. Not just Fitz-Sherman. The whole thing. See you Thursday night.

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray shows off his new jersey after the Arizona Cardinals selected Murray in the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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