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Cardinals defender backs 49ers quarter­back switch

The controversy surrounding the 49ers decision to bench Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert will likely be a hot-button of debate until the team finds a new long-term solution at the quarterback position.

But on Wednesday afternoon, a key defensive figure in the NFC West was not shy about voicing his opinion on the matter, as Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu staunchly supported the 49ers switch to Gabbert, while continuing to take shots at the injured Kaepernick.

Speaking to Bay Area media on a conference call, Mathieu supported the 49ers switch at quarterback, stating that Gabbert gives the 49ers a better chance at moving the ball than their former starter.

” It seems like Gabbert has a little bit better grip on what’s going on. If he gets in a situation, he knows where the ball needs to go. He’s a hell of a passer. I think he’s underrated when you talk about how well he can throw the football.

I think he gives them a better option going forward. It seems like the wide receivers are more involved, so it looks like they’re doing alright.”

Shortly after their blowout win against the 49ers earlier in the season of the season, Mathieu criticized Kaepernick, stating that he made the San Francisco 49ers predictable.

He backed up his assertion with his play on the field, where he contributed two of the four total interceptions Kaepernick threw on the day, returning one for a touchdown as well.

Mathieu and the Cardinals’ secondary held Kaepernick to just 67 yards — good for a 16.7 passer rating — while seeming to know the fifth-year veteran’s reads before he even made them.

On Wednesday, the Arizona safety reaffirmed his stance on Kaepernick, saying that his predictability hampered the 49ers ability to fool opposing defenses.

“We just knew Kaepernick’s tendencies. We knew what he liked to do, we knew which way he wanted to roll out, we knew what side of the field he liked to read to.”

But with Gabbert now manning the position, Mathieu doesn’t think the second meeting of the two NFC West teams will be as easy to run away with.

“You don’t pick up those same things with Gabbert. He’s better in the pocket. He has a better feel for coverages. It seems like he can get to the line, and see a coverage and then go to a different play. Or see a coverage and not throw the ball. You can see Gabbert’s maturity, the different things he does well that Kaepernick doesn’t do well.”

Gabbert is 1-1 since taking over for the 49ers in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons. The fifth-year veteran has completed 37-of-59 passing attempts, good for 449 yards and three touchdowns.

He has looked to grow out of some of the problems that plagued him earlier in his career, while standing confident and strong in the 49ers often collapsing pocket.

With Kaepernick out for the season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, the job is clearly Gabbert’s to run with for the remainder of the season.

Rookie Dylan Thompson serves as the only other quarterback on the 49ers 53-man roster at the moment, leaving Gabbert solely in charge of his attempt to revitalize his frustrating career since being taken 10th overall in the 2011 draft.

It remains to be seen whether the 49ers will invest heavily in a quarterback this offseason, leaving the slight possibility that Gabbert remains the starter heading into next year. But for now, head coach Jim Tomsula wants his new quarterback to take things one game at a time.

“I mean our long-range goals right now are the Arizona Cardinals and let’s go. Keep preparing the way you prepare and we’ve talked about that. The guy has always since he walked through the door his approach has been really good. Blaine is attacking it and I feel really good about that.”

Follow @SFBay and @ShawnWhelchel on Twitter and at for full coverage of the San Francisco 49ers.

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