No. 1: Can SF 49ers Stop Combination of Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins?
As mentioned earlier, the 2019 Niners had some difficulty with mobile quarterbacks, and Kyler Murray certainly took advantage of this during his two games against San Francisco last year. If anything, he earned the respect from then-49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who described trying to tackle Murray being like trying to track “a little squirrel.”
Buckner is gone now, of course, replaced by rookie defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who’ll have his own maturation and adjustment problems in year one.
Linebacker Fred Warner will be available off the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for the game, and he is one of the better options to spy Murray, along with fellow linebacker Kwon Alexander. Yet the quarterback’s abilities to extend plays with his legs could pose problems for San Francisco’s defense.
Especially with DeAndre Hopkins looming.
If Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury is smart, he’ll line Hopkins up against the 49ers’ No. 2 cornerback, not Richard Sherman. The initial estimate is the Niners starting Emmanuel Moseley here, and that’ll prove to be an early tough test for the young defensive back, going up against one of the best in the game.
It’s a matchup last year’s No. 1-ranked defense against the pass ideally wouldn’t like to have to kick off its slate of regular-season games. But that’s the situation San Francisco finds itself in for Week 1, and Hopkins can be a game-changer at any point in the contest.
The 49ers and Cardinals kick off on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 4:25 p.m. ET.