DeAndre Hopkins doesn’t need to look at a stat sheet to know his numbers are down this season.
The All-Pro wide receiver’s targets, catches and yards per game all have decreased in his second season with the Arizona Cardinals. After ranking in the top three in the NFL in catches (115) and receiving yards (1,407) in 2020, Hopkins isn’t even the top statistical receiver on his own team through four games this season.
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So how does the Cardinals’ star receiver feel about his declining stats?
“I feel great about it,” Hopkins told reporters Friday, October 8.
“This is my first time being on a team where there’s other receivers that are reliable consistently,” Hopkins explained, “so for me, that’s great. That’s championship football when you’ve got four other guys that can go out there … and take that pressure off me and make plays when they’re one-on-one.”
Those four other guys are newcomers A.J. Green and Rondale Moore, emerging star Christian Kirk, and increasingly reliable tight end Maxx Williams. Along with Hopkins, they’ve all been been key contributors on a balanced offense that leads the NFL in points (35) and yards (440.5) per game through the first quarter of the season.
The four receivers all have 15-17 catches and between 212 and 248 receiving yards as Cardinals QB Kyler Murray has spread the targets around, getting the ball to whoever has the best opportunity to make a play. Williams isn’t far behind, and running back Chase Edmonds has the most catches on the team with 20.
“I was looking at the receiving stats,” Murray told reporters October 6, “and they’re pretty even all around. I think we’re doing a good job of getting those guys the ball.”
The stats Murray was talking about:
- Yards: 1. Green, 248; 2. Kirk, 244; 3. Hopkins, 225; 4. Moore, 212; 5. Williams, 179.
- Catches: 1. Edmonds, 20; 2. Hopkins, 17; 3. (tie) Kirk and Moore, 16; 5. (tie) Green and Williams 15.
- Targets: 1. Green, 24; 2. Hopkins, 23; 3. Edmonds, 22; 4. (tie) Kirk and Moore, 18.
- Touchdowns: 1. Hopkins, three; 2. (tie) Green and Kirk, two; 4. (tie) Moore and Williams, one.
“We’ve just got a lot of weapons,” Murray said. “I’m confident in every one of those dudes.”
With defenses focusing on stopping Hopkins, Kliff Kingsbury said Arizona’s other receivers have done a good job winning their one-on-one matchups.
“(Hopkins) gets a lot of attention,” the Cardinals coach told reporters October 6. “We’ve got to continue to find ways to get him the ball. But like you’ve seen, all that attention on him has opened up these other guys, and he’s been celebrating their success.”
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Will Hopkins ‘Go Crazy’ vs. 49ers?
Hopkins says he hasn’t paid attention to the individual stats this season, focusing instead on the Cardinals’ 4-0 start.
“I don’t look at numbers until the end of the year,” he said. “I’ve never really looked at numbers.”
Hopkins’ stats have been impressive throughout his career. Now in his ninth NFL season, the 6-foot-1, 212-pound receiver has topped 1,000 receiving yards six times in the past seven seasons, falling just 46 yards short (954) in 2016. He’s also had four seasons with 100-plus catches.
Hopkins, 29, is on pace for 72 catches and 956 yards in 2021, the first NFL season with a 17-game schedule.
While Hopkins’ numbers are down, Murray’s confidence in his star receiver has never been higher, he said.
“I wish I could throw him the ball every play,” Murray said, later adding he wishes he could get the ball to all of his pass-catching weapons on every play.
“That’s just not how this game works. And he’s not a selfish guy,” he said. “I know (Hopkins) wants to go crazy every weekend, but that’s just part of it. He’s going to have his days, and I know he’ll have his days. As of right now … every guy is doing their thing.”
Hopkins certainly is due for a big day. After opening the season with six catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans, he’s averaged just 3.7 catches and 47.3 yards with one TD over the past three games.
Hopkins also has had big days against the Cardinals’ next opponent — the San Francisco 49ers. He made his Arizona debut against San Francisco in Week 1 last season, finishing with 14 catches for 151 yards in the Cardinals’ 24-20 road victory. Hopkins was less effective (eight catches, 48 yards) in the second meeting of 2020, which ended in a 20-12 loss to the 49ers in Glendale, Arizona.
In 2017, Hopkins torched the 49ers for 11 catches, 149 yards and two touchdowns when playing for the Houston Texans.
Kingsbury said he expects San Francisco to focus on stopping Hopkins when the 49ers (2-2) visit State Farm Stadium on Sunday, October 10. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. MST.
“I’m sure they’ll have a great plan for him,” he said.