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Cardinals preparing for a new-look Carlos Hyde, who's third in rushing

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If Detroit's Ameer Abdullah, Indianapolis' Frank Gore and Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott weren't enough for the Arizona Cardinals defense to handle, San Francisco's Carlos Hyde might be next.

Hyde may be the best running back of that bunch thus far this season. But he is questionable for Sunday's game with a hip injury, his status a game-time decision.

While Hyde may not be as effective as usual with a bum hip, he ranks third in the NFL with 253 rushing yards, and he has two touchdowns as well. He's averaging 5.16 yards per carry and has 159 yards before first contact -- the third-highest total in the NFL.

"He's a big, strong, powerful back," Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters said. "He runs really hard. It's very hard to get him down on the first contact. We have to do a good job of getting a lot of people to the ball, making sure we finish."

Arizona has allowed 153 yards before first contact through three games, amplifying Peters' point. The Cardinals are also giving up 85.7 rushing yards per game and 3.13 rushing yards per play.

Hyde is averaging 104 yards his last two games after posting 124 against the Seahawks in Week 2 and 84 last week against the Rams. Only Kansas City's Kareem Hunt had more the last two weeks.

Peters said the Cardinals can't mimic their game plan for Elliott because Dallas' and San Francisco's schemes differ a bit. But the Niners' "mindset" is similar to the Cowboys', Peters said.

"[The 49ers] want to line up and try to run the ball," Peters said. "It's going to be a challenge for us. But we're going to be ready to go and we're going to be keyed in and hopefully we have a good performance."

Under new coach Kyle Shanahan, Hyde's role as a receiver has increased, forcing the Cardinals to prepare for another aspect of the Niners offense. He has 12 catches for 61 yards through three games. He had 27 catches for 163 yards all of last season.

"You see some of the Atlanta philosophy where they're trying to split him out or they're going to get him touches and targets out of the backfield as a receiver," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. "I think he catches the ball well. I think you can see that. I love how he runs the ball. He runs the ball hard."

The Hyde that Peters sees on tape this year, under Shanahan, isn't the same running back he saw last year under former Niners coach Chip Kelly.

"I feel like there's a difference when you watch him this year," Peters said. "You always saw the talent, but the zone read is slightly different than putting someone back there in the 'I' and letting him get full speed and actually reading it like that.

"He looks a lot better in this offense. He looks more comfortable. He looks like he's running harder. It should be a good challenge for us."