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DeAndre Hopkins A Game-Day Decision Against Panthers

Notes: Pugh playing well; lack of takeaways not a big concern

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a regular season game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, September 27, 2020.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who leads the NFL in catches and yards, is a game-day decision against the Panthers due to an ankle injury.

DeAndre Hopkins did not practice this week for the Cardinals and will be a game-day decision to play on Sunday against the Panthers, coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Hopkins is dealing with an ankle injury that popped up in last week's loss to the Lions. The three-time All-Pro receiver leads the NFL in both catches (32) and receiving yards (356), so it would be a big blow if Hopkins is inactive.

"We'll see," Kingsbury said. "He's been working through it and there has been progress, but I don't think we'll know until Sunday. We'll see how he feels. If he can go, he'll go, but we don't want to put him out there -- it's early in the year -- if he isn't feeling his best."

Durability has been a major calling card for Hopkins, as he has only missed two games during his eight-year career.

"Hop is definitely one of those guys who has not missed many games during his career," Kingsbury said. "If he can go, I'm sure he'll play, but it's early in the season, the first month. We're not going to roll him out there if he's not feeling like he can play at his best."

Wide receiver Christian Kirk, who missed last week's game with a groin injury, will also be a game-time decision, Kingsbury said. Kirk was able to practice this week, but in a limited capacity.

"I wouldn't say he's 100 percent yet," Kingsbury said.

If neither can go, the Cardinals would likely lean on Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson as their main options at wideout, with tight end Dan Arnold likely seeing more targets in the passing game.

Also questionable for the Cardinals are cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), outside linebacker Devon Kennard (calf), center Mason Cole (hamstring), linebacker Dennis Gardeck (foot) and linebacker Tanner Vallejo (illness.)

Pro Bowler Budda Baker (thumb) and fellow safety Chris Banjo (hamstring) are out, leaving the Cardinals with fourth-string Deionte Thompson and fifth-string Curtis Riley as their starters at the position.

For the Panthers, left tackle Russell Okung (groin) and guard Dennis Daley (ankle) are questionable. Star running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle) won't play.

JUSTIN PUGH SHINING EARLY

Justin Pugh didn't have a good first season with the Cardinals after signing a lucrative free agent deal in 2018, but he's been solid since.

Pugh did a nice job at left guard a season ago and even filled in at right tackle in a pinch. Through three games this year, he is in the top-8 in pass-blocking grades for guards as judged by both Pro Football Focus and ESPN.

"I think I'm playing some of my best football," Pugh said. "Throughout my career, if you look at it, I've kind of been a Band-Aid guy. When I was in New York I played right tackle, and if we were playing someone I'd move to guard. When I was at left guard and finally found a home, it was like, 'Hey, we're playing Von Miller this week, you have to go out to right tackle or play left tackle.'

"It's kind of been the story of my career, but I feel like my best position is left guard. I think I'm one of the best left guards in football."

TAKEAWAYS LACKING ON DEFENSE

The Cardinals have played well defensively through three games but have only amassed one takeaway – a strip-sack by Jordan Phillips against Washington that was recovered by Chandler Jones.

The team does not have any interceptions, although safety Chris Banjo does have a pair – one against the 49ers and one last week against the Lions – that were wiped out via penalty.

The Cardinals didn't intercept a pass until Week 7 of last season, but this group is stronger across the board, and linebacker Jordan Hicks doesn't see a big issue.

"If we're getting sacks, it means quarterbacks are holding the ball and not forcing it into small windows, and we are getting those pressure," Hicks said. "Since I've been in the league, those go hand-in-hand, and as long as we continue to be diligent on searching for the ball in runner's hands and making plays that come our way without trying to force anything… it'll come. They always do, in bunches."

Images from practice at the Dignity Health Training Center, presented by Hyundai.

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