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49ers pregame: Colt McCoy in, Kyler Murray out for Cardinals; Danny Gray active again


If you look past the quarterbacks and wide receivers who are headlining tonight’s game between the 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals, you might find a rookie who’s still seeking his first catch: Danny Gray.

Could this be the day (or night) Gray comes through?

Well, before we did further into that, the main pregame news confirms this morning’s report that quarterback Kyler Murray won’t start or even suit up for the Arizona Cardinals. That thrusts Colt McCoy into that starting role for a second straight game, and a similar scenario played out last November when McCoy led the Cardinals to a 31-17 win at Levi’s Stadium.

Murray was limited in practice last week with a hamstring injury. When Murray missed last season’s game against the host 49ers, McCoy was 22-of-26 for 249 yards, and his 45-yard touchdown pass to James Conner raised the Cardinals’ lead to 24-7.

McCoy’s top target tonight could be wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was questionable because of a hamstring injury.

Now, don’t expect Gray to be Jimmy Garoppolo‘s top target, not with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey as the more likely options.

However,  Gray will suit up for the seventh time his rookie season as he again seeks his first official reception. Gray was active but did not play in the 49ers’ Nov. 13 win over the Chargers.

Encouraging Gray along the way have been the 49ers’ receiving leaders: Samuel and Aiyuk, who went through their own rookie struggles in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, in 2019 and ’20, respectively.

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“Kyle ain’t as hard as he used to be,” Samuel said after Friday’s practice at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. “Me and Brandon joke with him a lot about how hard he was on us. He’s got guys like us in the room to help him with that, so he’s not on Danny as much, but he still does get a piece of him here and there.”

Samuel noted that “as a rookie,” Gray is doing well with his scarce opportunities. The third-round pick from SMU played 33 offensive snaps all season, and drawn six targets, with two apiece against Seattle, Carolina and Atlanta.

“In Kyle’s offense, it’s hard to learn as a rookie. We need him to play a bit, and that’s a lot of pressure on his back,” Samuel added. “As a rookie, he gets a little anxious at times, and it takes control of your body. Me and Brandon have been there, so that’s when we step in and say, ‘Calm down. Just let things happen.’ “

— The 49ers inactivated the same six players as last game: defensive linemen Arik Armstead, Samson Ebukam and Kemoko Turay; running bay Ty Davis-Price, linebacker Curtis Robinson and offensive lineman Nick Zakelj. Ebukam’s Nov. 7 quadriceps strain will keep him out a second straight game. He resumed practicing Friday, in a limited role.



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