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Carolina Panthers

Know Your Foe: Arizona Cardinals

DeAndre Hopkins

The Cardinals were one quarter away from joining the 3-0 club Sunday. Instead, they became a part of the blown fourth-quarter lead club (although certainly not its ranking officer ... ahem, Atlanta).

The Cardinals led the winless Lions, 23-20, entering the fourth quarter. But Detroit hit two field goals, including one as time expired, to snap its 11-game losing streak.

Still, Arizona (2-1) has put together a solid open to the season, knocking off San Francisco and Washington before the heartbreaker against Detroit.

Hopkins Time

Many questioned the rationale behind the offseason trade between Houston and Arizona. The clubs swapped wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back David Johnson, and the immediate reaction was Arizona got the better end of the deal. Hopkins has added more fuel to that narrative by putting up league-best numbers through the season's first three games.

The South Carolina native and Clemson product leads all players with 32 receptions for 356 receiving yards. Hopkins has caught 86.5 percent of his targets, ranking fourth among qualifying players. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he's been open on 64.9 percent of his targets, the highest among all wide receivers with at least 10 targets. And Hopkins is one of just three players, alongside Atlanta's Calvin Ridley and Carolina's Robby Anderson, with multiple 100-yard receiving games this season.

Meanwhile, future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, who ranks second in NFL history in catches and receiving yards, has 12 catches for 84 yards in his 17th season. Fitzgerald is just two games from tying Tim Brown and Irving Fryar (255) for the second-most ever played by a wide receiver in NFL history.

Sophomore Slump?

Quarterback Kyler Murray enters his second season after winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 with 3,722 passing yards and 544 rushing yards for 24 total touchdowns.

Murray has seemed to avoid the sophomore slump so far with solid performances in September. Through three games, he has 786 passing yards with four passing touchdowns and a rating of 79.7. He leads all quarterbacks with 187 rushing yards, tied for fifth-most by any quarterback in NFL history through a season's first three weeks.

However, Murray accounted for three interceptions in Sunday's loss to the Lions, two of which led to 10 Detroit points.

Isaiah Simmons

Simmons-Brown comparison

Back in April, all eyes were on Clemson linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons and Auburn's Derrick Brown as potential first-round picks for Carolina. The Panthers went with Brown and Simmons was picked by Arizona just one spot later.

So how do they compare after three games?

Brown had a big performance in Carolina's Week 3 win at the Chargers, racking up three tackles for loss. He was also part of a pass rush that had a season-high 14 pressures, according to Net Gen Stats.

Simmons, meanwhile, had just one tackle on 10 snaps in Week 3. This season, he has only five tackles and has averaged 11.6 snaps per game. But that number might increase because...

Safety Needs

Arizona is currently very thin in its secondary due to injuries. Starting safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson won't play in Week 4, and reserve safety Chris Banjo is in doubt.

The Cardinals website is reporting that Simmons may get his chance to move to safety as soon as this weekend. According to the report, Simmons had been practicing exclusively at linebacker since he was drafted.

Arizona also brought in former Broncos safety T.J. Ward for a tryout.

Carolina is 14-5 all-time against the Cardinals, including a 2-1 record in the playoffs.

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