Cardinals pinpoint DeAndre Hopkins’ injury as a main factor for late skid

Mar 1, 2022, 8:20 PM

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with fans after Arizona defeated the Chicag...

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates with fans after Arizona defeated the Chicago Bears 33-22 at Soldier Field on December 05, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Shocker, the brunt of the questions thrown Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s and general manager Steve Keim’s way during Tuesday’s press conferences focused on quarterback Kyler Murray and his agent’s statement from a day prior.

But although the signal caller and his contract situation was among the main talking points at the NFL Combine, the team’s second half skid and the reasoning behind was a close second.

“I think after doing some reflection, the biggest thing is when we lost Hop (DeAndre Hopkins to a torn MCL), I didn’t do a good job schematically, of adjusting some things that could have taken some pressure off of Kyler,” Kingsbury told reporters Tuesday. “You lose a piece like that, you’ve got to find a way to be more creative and I’ve got to be better at that. But I think we’ve improved each year, offensively.

“Obviously, didn’t like the way we finished, but we’ve got to continue to be creative and try to put Kyler in positions to be successful and surround him with talent that can make plays. … It’s just toward the end of the season we’ve got to do a better job of coaching and playing and understand that’s when you make your playoff push.”

Losing a guy of Hopkins’ caliber was certainly an absence the Cardinals could not get over as they looked to right the ship in 2022.

Not only did the Cardinals lose Hopkins’ production, they missing out on a wide receiver that’s gonna keep a defense honest and shift coverage his way. It showed in terms of how the offense looked in the latter half of the season, something Keim pointed out Tuesday.

“I think it’s one of those things you try to put your finger on and you look back and try to self evaluate,” Keim said. “I know we didn’t play as well offensively, I felt we played out of sync, the offensive line was banged up, losing Hop was a big deal because so many things come down to what he can do in that X spot. … Any time you lose a player of Hop’s magnitude, it certainly hurts.”

Cardinals ‘not down’ on LBs Isaiah Simmons, Zaven Collins

Murray wasn’t the only Cardinals first-round draft pick up for discussion on Tuesday.

Despite using a first-round pick on Zaven Collins last year, the linebacker quickly saw his defensive snaps dwindle as the season pressed on. When the dust settled on the season, the rookie registered just 20% of the team’s defensive snaps as he was used more as a special teamer, seeing 35% of snaps.

Instead, the Cardinals stuck with Jordan Hicks as the team’s MIKE backer, although Collins was anointed the starter ahead of the season.

“Jordan was a guy that knew the defense inside and out,” Keim said. “And obviously, we benefited from that because of the complexity of some of the things that we were doing. But moving forward, there’s no doubt that we have to get those young kids involved more.”

The other one of those “young kids” is 2020 first-rounder Isaiah Simmons, who flashed at times but still showed a raw, unfinished product in Year 2.

The versatile linebacker recorded 105 tackles, an interception and 1.5 sacks in 17 games played last season.

“It’s a year-to-year league and anytime we have a first-round draft pick we want to maximize that pick,” Kingsbury said. “We love the two guys we selected. Obviously, we’re hoping in the future they can play a lot more, but we’re not down on either guy.”

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