Kyler Murray: Moving DeAndre Hopkins around necessary for Cardinals offense

Oct 26, 2022, 5:15 PM

DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals...

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals lines up during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on October 20, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Saints 42-34. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Before the start of the season, Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury evaluated how to best utilize wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins upon his return from suspension in Week 7.

Arizona’s 42-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints displayed the conclusion Kingsbury and his staff came to: capitalizing on the wideout’s versatility by moving him inside and outside on both sides of the line.

Hopkins had never lined up in the slot for 25% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps in a game since arriving in the desert in 2020. The three-time All-Pro has been Arizona’s X receiver, but he moved inside for 42.4% of offensive snaps Thursday, according to Pro Football Focus.

“This offseason we talked about just trying to maximize him looking at some of the other pieces, where he would fit best,” Kingsbury said. “And we’ve made a conscious effort to really try and move him around and do a better job with that. I think he has a better understanding of our offense now and the complete scheme, not just what he does. And I think that’s helped all of us.”

Hopkins, no matter where he lined up, got open Thursday with 10 catches on 14 targets and 103 yards, his most since 2020.

He created 2.67 yards of separation on average, most on the team, according to Next Gen Stats. That 2.6-2.7-yard range includes receivers Ja’Marr Chase, A.J. Brown and Mike Evans, to compare.

Quarterback Kyler Murray is all for the plan of moving Hopkins around, noting that evolution is necessary to keep defenses on their toes.

“His first year here he had 1,400 yards,” Murray said. “I don’t know how. We literally just, he lined up on the left side of the field and we just went to work. Every week, it was, ‘Why do people allow us to do this?’

“Last year, he was moving around a little bit more, ended up getting hurt and stuff like that. But I think for us to easily give him easy completions and get the ball in our best player’s hands, got to move him around.”

Hopkins has prior experience moving about, as he set up in the slot on 36% of offensive snaps in the slot during his final season with the Houston Texans in 2019. He has lined up out wide more often during his two years in Arizona than he had at any point with Houston, according to PFF.

Murray called the Cardinals’ receiving corps one of the best in the NFL, and it has not been at full strength all year. Hopkins is working back into the offense after having not played since December 2021, Robbie Anderson is learning the playbook after coming over in a trade last week and Marquise Brown is on injured reserve.

The quarterback, like his head coach, feels that Hopkins switching up his spot opens the game up for the other targets like Rondale Moore — who played a career-high 79.4% of snaps out wide in Week 7 — or Greg Dortch.

When Brown gets back — reportedly in five weeks — having him and Hopkins work inside and out can create mismatches and give defenses a lot to think about.

“The more we can move him around, makes people you know worry about him, which is a given, other people are going to be open,” Murray said.

Kingsbury said he will utilize Hopkins how he sees best based on matchups going forward.

The head coach noted he was excited to see how Hopkins will perform with a full week of practice under his belt for the first time this season.

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