Fitzgerald: Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins ‘takes pressure off everybody’
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In many ways, Larry Fitzgerald can relate to his new Arizona Cardinals teammate DeAndre Hopkins.
They each became prolific NFL receivers without blinding speed. They rely on technique, and stacked against blanketing coverage, are two of the most sure-handed pass-catchers in the game.
Both have found success playing for teams that at times didn’t stack the roster around them, nor always have excellent quarterback play.
So Fitzgerald knows what the Cardinals got when they acquired Hopkins from the Texans in a March trade that sent David Johnson and a second-round pick to Houston and included a swap of fourth-round selections.
Fitzgerald, at 36 years old, led Arizona with 804 receiving yards and 75 catches last season. No doubt he believes he can benefit from the team adding Hopkins, who recorded 1,165 receiving yards for a Texans playoff team that leaned on him heavily.
“I think it takes pressure off of everybody. Takes pressure off our defense, special teams,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday at Ocean 44 in Scottsdale, before he hand-delivered free meals to health care professionals.
Hopkins finished last year ranked fifth in the NFL with 150 targets and 10th in targeted air yards, per NextGen stats. Him sharing a field with Fitzgerald, in theory, should help the future Hall of Famer.
“You look at what Chandler Jones did when he came in by trade a few years ago, how he elevated our defense and made everybody else around him … other guys benefit,” Fitzgerald said. “You look at (OLB) Markus Golden, the year he had when Chandler come in. Everybody gets better when you bring good players around, especially unselfish good players like (Hopkins) is.”
Jones came to Arizona before the 2016 season. While he tallied 11 sacks — the fewest of his four years with the Cardinals — teammate Markus Golden went from four sacks as a rookie to 12.5 playing opposite Jones.
To that point, Fitzgerald can hope the Hopkins addition likewise benefits his production — or at least the ease at which he produces.
Few players can appreciate what the 27-year-old Hopkins has done to this point in his career like Fitzgerald.
In Fitzgerald’s first seven NFL seasons, the Cardinals receiver recorded 8,204 yards and 65 touchdowns with five Pro Bowl appearances. Hopkins has piled up 54 touchdown receptions and 8,602 total yards with four Pro Bowls.
Obviously, Fitzgerald has so far tacked on nine more productive seasons after his first seven. Count him a Hopkins fan.
“I’ve been a big fan of his since he was at Clemson,” Fitzgerald said. “Followed his career, phenomenal player. What he’s accomplished already in just a short seven years is really spectacular. (Hopkins was on a) playoff team last year so he has what it takes, he understands what it’s about to get to there. Anybody you can add that’s (an) perennial All-Pro to your team, is usually a good thing.”