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How can DeAndre Hopkins help Kyler Murray? Past Cardinals QBs weigh in

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches a pass for a first down as Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White (27) defends during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

DeAndre Hopkins being good at football and now a member of the Arizona Cardinals should help second-year quarterback Kyler Murray be good at football, too.

We all deduced that when Arizona swapped fourth-round picks and sent running back David Johnson, plus a second-round pick, to the Houston Texans in exchange for Hopkins this offseason.

We all projected Hopkins will upgrade the Cardinals because he has been a 1,000-yard receiver in five of his seven NFL seasons despite some of those campaigns spent without a quality quarterback and even more without many weapons around him.

As to the “how” of the matter, former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and Kurt Warner have some thoughts. They joined Doug & Wolf for a special Cardinals QB1 roundtable on Arizona Sports to discuss how adding a No. 1 receiver — and this one in particular — should help Murray starting in 2020.

Getting the ball out quickly when coverage is solid

As the Cardinals protected Murray during his rookie year by only giving him small plates of designed runs, he still found himself scrambling and making things happen with his legs.

That, or he took a sack or lost yardage while hanging onto the ball too long. Hopkins can be a safety-valve for him, Palmer suggests.

“He’s been tentative to look for No. 1 and (then) make things happen with his feet and throw somebody a back-shoulder ball, or get outside the pocket and let somebody open up down the field,” Palmer said. “That’s really where DeAndre Hopkins comes in.

“He’s a great route-runner but he’s a great play-maker.”

That’s where Hopkins fits arguably better than other options the Cardinals could’ve been considering heading into the offseason.

In the draft, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb was widely regarded as a Hopkins comparison, but there were other potential top receivers on the board as Arizona held the No. 8 pick. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy was as polished as a route-runner as they come, while college teammate Henry Ruggs was the speed-burner.

But the Cardinals didn’t need to wait for the draft to get a shiny new toy at WR. And Palmer believes they got someone who skillset-wise is the best match in terms of getting the ball out of Murray’s hands quickly.

“Kyler can get through one and two and then use what God gave him with his feet and his speed and his quickness, and just look for DeAndre,” Palmer said. “Even though DeAndre might be covered, you can throw him a high ball, you can throw him a back-shoulder ball, you can lead him downfield and let him go run underneath it.

“I just thought that addition was the perfect addition as opposed to bringing in a pure speed guy or a prolific route-runner.”

Simplifying and scheming

Warner believes Hopkins simplifies the game for Murray and explained how that opens up the offense for other wideouts to contribute.

“You always try to make the game of football as easy as you possibly you can,” Warner said. “Any time that I was playing … you run a lot of 3-by-1 formations putting three receivers to one side and a solo receiver on your backside. A lot of times you want that X receiver (on the backside) to be your one-on-one guy.”

Hopkins is that X.

The easiest way to simplify the offense, according to Warner, is to roll out a one-on-one matchup with Hopkins and let him go get the ball, something that he does well in tight coverage and along the sidelines.

“I don’t have to worry about all the other guys, I don’t have to worry about the other 10 guys on the football field. I think that’s going to be the biggest advantage that (Murray) can have,” Warner said.

“DeAndre Hopkins is going to be over there at X. Now I just got to play catch,” he added. “We’re going to simplify this game a whole bunch and then if teams want to roll over there to his side, now we’re going to gain our advantages with guys like Larry Fitzgerald on the inside. I just think it’s a tremendous accomplishment from a scheme standpoint.”

Phillips Law Group

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