DeAndre Hopkins expects to become ‘best friends’ with Kyler Murray
DeAndre Hopkins is one of the NFL’s top wide receivers. His voice carries weight, and he should have a say in team matters.
It doesn’t mean he joins the Arizona Cardinals with a list of demands, even though his representatives and the team may be behind the scenes trying to work out a revised contract that properly reflects his value.
Hopkins is in the fledgling stages of understanding a Kliff Kingsbury-led offense, and he’s not stepping on toes. The general priority right now is learning his new home, but most pressing for the Cardinals receiver is getting to know his quarterback, Kyler Murray.
“To form that chemistry, it’s not just on the field but off the field,” Hopkins said on a Zoom call Monday. “Us communicating, texting each other and calling each other — just building a camaraderie of something that’s going to last a long time, not just while we’re playing football but after football.
“My expectations is us becoming best friends and doing everything together because I have to be on the same page as my quarterback for us to be successful as a team, not just him and I.”
Cue images of Bert and Ernie, Brennan and Dale, Timon and Pumba, J.D. and Turk, and Will and Carlton.
Hopkins is used to making new quarterback pals.
He produced with a number of quarterbacks in his first several NFL seasons with Houston. Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Matt Shaub and Case Keenum were in and out behind center until the Texans drafted rising star Deshaun Watson three years ago.
To this point, Hopkins has posted more than 1,000 receiving yards in five of seven seasons as a pro.
So learning a new quarterback isn’t a new thing. Hopkins admitted Monday that the lack of on-field practices this coronavirus-impacted offseason hasn’t helped matters. But the lack of a preseason isn’t necessarily going to hurt him all that much, he believes.
Hopkins remains optimistic he and Murray, who got together in Dallas this summer with the rest of the Cardinals skill players, will have time to learn one another once true training camp starts.
“I think I will have time to develop chemistry with Kyler,” Hopkins said. “Obviously he’s matured in this offense and I’m new to it, but he’s doing a good job keeping me up to par with things.
“Obviously we don’t have a lot of time to get ready so every rep really counts but I think Kyler’s mindset is we’re going to make it work, so that’s my mindset as well.”
Hopkins credited Kingsbury and Murray for working with him as he catches up, adding his head is in the playbook. The receiver’s phone wallpaper even includes some of the plays.
With him joining an offense that mostly returns the same starters that finished 2019, Hopkins is making no suggestions to Kingsbury about his role.
“Right now I’m just learning the offense, trying to go out and master the basics,” Hopkins said. “Until I master the basics, I don’t think I really have much room to implement something I like. I think the offense is great for a receiver, for a skill player. You can actually showcase your skills in the offense like this. I think they do a good job already of getting playmakers the ball.
“The conversation with Kliff and I is (about) winning.”
Hopkins said he hasn’t played in a pass-focused, up-tempo scheme since his college days at Clemson. He pointed to his 18-touchdown junior season in 2012 as a reason to be optimistic that he can thrive with Arizona.
After trying on his Cardinals uniform for the first time over the weekend — Hopkins said it gave him chills — now comes the hard part: reaching expectations and becoming one of the most feared receiver-quarterback tandems with Murray.
What has Hopkins learned about his new signal-caller?
“Kyler has arm. Obviously I’m thankful to play with a quarterback like that, that can make any throw anywhere on the field and has confidence to do it,” he said.
“(Murray) wants to be first in everything he does. I knew he was obviously a great athlete, but I didn’t know he was as competitive as he is … He’s not the most outspoken person. He competes in everything he does.”