Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has prepared for four different incarnations of the 49ers over the past four years.
Under first-year coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers are similar to how the team looked under Jim Harbaugh, not Jim Tomsula or Chip Kelly, according to Arians.
“(They’re) a lot more like when Jimmy was there,” Arians said Wednesday morning on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
“They’ve got an excellent offensive scheme that’s a proven winner. Brian Hoyer is a heck of a quarterback for that scheme. He knows it. He doesn’t make many mistakes. Good running back (Carlos Hyde). They’ve added some excellent receivers, so offensively they run the ball, great play action. A lot like those teams in the past.”
Arians said the 49ers’ defensive system is similar to what the Seahawks have done for most of the past decade but the 49ers have placed their own stamp on the scheme.
“Defensively, the personnel matches the defense perfectly," Arians said. "All those No. 1 picks on the defensive line look extremely impressive in this style of defense.”
The 49ers face the Cardinals on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona, and the 49ers will see a lot of familar faces:
S Antoine Bethea
After starting all 39 games in which he appeared for the 49ers over the past three seasons, Bethea has nine tackles in the first three games. He has started only one of the Cardinals’ three games. Tyvon Branch is the Cardinals’ starting strong safety, but Bethea sees plenty of action in Arizona’s sub packages.
"Having known ‘Toine back in Indianapolis, I know the type of player and leader he was," Arians said. "He was somebody I wanted in our locker room."
Arians credited Bethea as part of the reason the Cardinals have had great communication in the secondary thus far.
LG Alex Boone
The Cardinals signed Boone shortly after he declined to take a pay reduction, prompting the Minnesota Vikings to release him just one season into a scheduled four-year, $26 million contract. Boone saw five snaps as a replacement for Mike Iupati in the Cardinals' opener.
“He’s been a great addition because he’s so smart and so tough,” Arians said.
Boone started the past two weeks, but left the game Monday night late in the fourth quarter with a pectoral injury. Boone could move over to right guard when Iupati and Boone are healthy. Arians said he would not know who will be able to start on the offensive line against the 49ers until he sees the players in pads during Thursday’s practice.
K Phil Dawson
Dawson, 42, who made 86.1 percent of his field-goal attempts with the 49ers, has gotten off to a slow start with the Cardinals. Dawson has made five of his eight attempts through three games.
Dawson pushed his 36-yard field goal attempt on Monday night wide right, which proved to halt the Cardinals’ momentum against the Dallas Cowboys. Arizona could have gone up 10-0 early in the second quarter of their eventual 28-17 loss.
QB Blaine Gabbert
Gabbert has been inactive for all three games as the Cardinals’ No. 3 quarterback behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
LG Mike Iupati
After starting 75 games over five seasons with the 49ers, Iupati signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Cardinals as a free agent in 2015. He started the season at left guard before missing the past two games with a triceps injury. His availability for Sunday's game will be determined later in the week, Arians said.
P Andy Lee
Lee, 35, a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his 11 seasons with the 49ers, is now with his fourth team in four years. The 49ers sent him to Cleveland in a 2015 trade. Then, he was traded to Carolina. The Cardinals signed him just prior to the start of the regular season after the Panthers cut him.
Lee is averaging 45.8 yards per punt (38.2 yards net) on 15 punts to open the season. Both marks are lower than his career average. The gross average is his lowest since 200, his third season in the league. The last time his net average was less than 39 yards was 2010, when he averaged 38.2.