Cardinals vs. SF 49ers: 5 battles to watch in 2020 season opener

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Jimmy Garoppolo, SF 49ers
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

SF 49ers Battle No. 3: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trent Taylor vs. Cardinals Third-Down Defense

San Francisco and Arizona were polar opposites on third downs last year, especially from the Niners’ offensive and Cardinals’ defensive vantage points.

Jimmy Garoppolo went 65-of-130 on third-down attempts for a first down, and his 50 percent completion rating here led all qualifiers, and the SF 49ers posted a successful third-down conversion rate of 44.4 percent last season, good for fifth best in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s third-down defense gave up first downs 46.7 percent of the time, which was third worst in the league.

Offseason changes could skew some of those stats differently, of course. But the Niners are expected to get a nice little boost, pun intended, by getting back their 5-foot-8 slot receiver, Trent Taylor, from a yearlong foot injury suffered last season.

Taylor’s rapport with Garoppolo is already well established, and the former was a third-down machine his first season in 2017, hauling in 19 third-down catches for a first down, which was tied for ninth best among all pass-catchers and tied for most among rookies that year.

If Arizona’s woes defending on third down continue, look for both Garoppolo and Taylor to be notable contributors in this particular spot throughout the game.