TEMPE, Ariz. — Four Days after the Arizona CardinalsThey traded their first-round selection to the Baltimore RavensFor wide receiver Marquise BrownThe news broke that the NFL had suspendedReceiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the 2022 season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
Imagine a high-flying offense with Hopkins as the quarterback Kyler MurrayBrown and Hopkins on the other hand were both short-lived and the Cardinals will be without Hopkins for the first month and a half of the season. Although the Cardinals have 11 games remaining in the regular-season when Hopkins returns, it is clear that Arizona will need to make a strong start to prevent a slide late in the season. After finishing the regular-season 3-6 in 2020 (and 3-5 in 2021), there are no doubts about Arizona's ability to rebound.
The Cardinals needed Hopkins to get this kind of start. Hopkins was performing at an elite level before two injuries, one to the hamstring and one his knee, forced Hopkins to miss seven regular season games last year. Through Week 8, 2021, he had a higher catch rate and an average of yards per target and yards following catch per reception than in any of the eight seasons of his remarkable career. He saw a decrease in yards per route (from 2.1 to 2.0).
Murray and his Cardinals team are just as good without Hopkins. They are unable to win. Arizona was 8-2 last season when Murray and Hopkins were both active, and 1-4 in the 2014-15 season. Los Angeles RamsMurray was playing with Hopkins in the NFC wild card game.
Hopkins' absence will not change the offense or the way the Cardinals defense plays them. Brown could be traded for Hopkins so that if Hopkins is injured again, Brown can fill the spot. That is now a fact.
Kliff Kingbury, Arizona's head coach, will have to make sure Arizona doesn’t crumble like it did last season. Kingsbury admitted at March's NFL combine that he wasn't able to adapt to life without Hopkins the way he should.
Kingsbury said that he had reflected and realized that the most important thing was how I did not adjust some things to relieve some pressure on Kyler when we lost Hop. When you lose a piece, you need to find creative ways to make it work. I believe that we've made significant improvements offensively over the years. Although we didn't love the end result, we must continue to be creative. We have to help Kyler be successful and surround him by talent that can make plays.
Arizona will decide whether they can go on to win the second consecutive postseason depending on how Kingsbury responds in the next four months, and every week thereafter until Hopkins returns.
However, this is what we know: Murray's loss of Hopkins will have a significant impact on his life. Considerably. Murray's QBR fell from 62 to 46 last season. His yards per attempt dropped from 8.8 to 6.6 and his completion perception plummeted to 65% from 72.
Murray will however have Brown this year, which gives him the opportunity to play without Hopkins. A lot of time. Hopkins can attend offseason practices, training camps and the preseason. But Hopkins won't be permitted to join the team until Week 1. Kingsbury and Cardinals have approximately four months to prepare. This should allow them enough time to create a well-thought out game plan.
Murray and Brown have a good rapport. They were college friends at Oklahoma in 2017 & 2018, where Brown accumulated 1,318 yards with 10 touchdowns and 75 catches.
Murray had long desired more offensive help and had asked the Cardinals for a pairing with one his college receivers. Brown fulfilled both of his requests.
Murray looked as though he was going to have one the best one-two combos in football for a few more days.
Monday's news brought Arizona back to life, without Hopkins. As the memories of last year flood back, Arizona is now back in business.