The Arizona Cardinals will face several different starters from the San Francisco 49ers team they beat 47-7 in Week 3 of the regular season.
Blaine Gabbert is in at quarterback for the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick, whom Arizona intercepted four times and returned two takeaways for touchdowns in the lopsided game, was placed on Injured Reserve last week.
Even with multiple personnel changes on both sides of the ball, San Francisco's coordinators sounded optimistic about their team's chances of winning a seventh consecutive home game against their divisional foe.
"We're excited about playing Arizona," offensive coordinator Geep Chryst said on Friday. "We feel like we've got a good gameplan, but they're a good team. All three phases of the game are playing at a pretty high level for them, but we like our chances, so we'll see what happens on Sunday."
When asked to explain his optimistic view on potentially defeating the 8-2 division-leaders, Chryst pointed to his offense's continued growth with Gabbert under center for a third week in a row.
"We're starting to develop some continuity," the play-caller said. "(Gabbert) is starting to see the field and find some rhythm. In the games he's played, there's been moments where he's gotten in rhythm, and you see the offense moving. I think that's something we're seeing on the practice field as well. That excites us."
Arizona's defense ranks third in total defense and has recorded 14 interceptions this season. Gabbert is coming off a turnover-free game against the NFL's second-ranked pass defense in the Seattle Seahawks.
Gabbert won't be the only new player the Cardinals will see on Sunday. Shaun Draughn will make his second consecutive start, Chryst said on Friday. Pierre Garçon was ruled out for a fourth straight game with a nagging left foot injury. The coordinator applauded Draughn's versatility in his last two games where he's picked up 173 yards of total offense, including 12 catches for 78 yards out of the backfield.
"(He's) a running threat, a receiving threat and willing to do the dirty work," Chryst said of the team's mid-season pickup. "I think he's now coming into his own, and we're really happy to have him on our team."
Chryst also confirmed that Andrew Tiller will get a second start at right guard. Tiller replaced Jordan Devey in the starting lineup in last week's road loss against the Seahawks. Devey had made nine consecutive starts to begin the season.
"He was playing well," Chryst said of Tiller. "I think he has earned the right to get another series, or in this case, get another start."
Chryst also said the team is "trying like crazy" to get center Daniel Kilgore activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list. The coordinator said the fifth-year veteran has looked good in the two weeks that he's been at practice, but making sure Kilgore is in proper game shape is the team's focus at the moment. Chryst said the goal is to get Kilgore "on a natural path," where his workload continues to be increased as he builds stamina.
The 49ers will also showcase younger players on defense against the Cardinals. Second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt has made three starts on defense since Antoine Bethea suffered a season-ending injury. In addition, Arik Armstead figures to enter the starting lineup in place of Glenn Dorsey, who was lost for the season due to a torn right ACL in last week's game.
"It's hard to replace a guy like Glenn," said defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, who could potentially move Quinton Dial from right defensive tackle to Dorsey's spot on the left side of the line. Armstead and Tony Jerod-Eddie could be looked at options to play on the right side.
Armstead has spent the majority of his rookie campaign playing in defensive sub packages. He played in a season-high 46 snaps last week in Seattle as Dorsey's replacement in base downs.
"Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt," Armstead, San Francisco's first-round pick said. "Glenn is an excellent player and a guy who has helped me out a lot. It sucks seeing him get hurt, but as a d-line, we just have to all step up together and try to fulfil that role that we're going to miss with him."
San Francisco's defensive coordinator also said the team will continue to start Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker at cornerback. Marcus Cromartie will rotate into the game like he did last week in place of Acker.
"I think that's a good combination," Mangini said. "When Marcus came in last game, he did a good job. I'm very happy for him, proud of him. I love his approach. I love the way he's earned more opportunities."
The rest of San Francisco's new faces will look to do the same in Week 12.