Mid-career move: Hopkins ready for new start in Arizona
Quarterback Kyler Murray is the young star who hopes he’s at the beginning of a long and successful run with the Arizona Cardinals. Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald is winding down one of the NFL’s great offensive careers.
DeAndre Hopkins — a man in the prime of his NFL life — said there’s plenty he can learn from both of them.
The Cardinals pulled off a stunner during the offseason when they landed the 28-year-old receiver in a trade with the Houston Texans. Over the past weekend, he put on his Cardinals jersey for the first time and relished the feeling of newness that came with his mid-career move.
“Felt great, felt good, gave me chills,” Hopkins said. “Not going to lie, it felt real good to be part of a great organization. The Cardinal red, white and black looked good on me, if I do say so myself.”
The three-time All-Pro was one of the league’s most consistent and durable receivers during his seven seasons with the Texans. He had at least 1,000 receiving yards in five of the past six seasons.
Second-year Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury, known for his Air Raid-style passing offense, said the only danger of having someone like Hopkins on the roster is trying to do too much with him.
“It’s tough when you’re in quarantine, you’ve got a bunch of time just to draw up crazy plays,” Kingsbury said. “We’re going to try to minimize that and just let DeAndre be the great player he is. We’re going to have different things, different ways to get him the football, obviously.
“We like the progress of this offense, the direction it took late last year. We feel like we found our identity and (Hopkins) just going to be an added weapon that just makes us that much better moving forward.”
Hopkins has spent his time during the offseason getting to know his new teammates, including Murray, the 22-year-old who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 and had an encouraging first season — earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. The receiver said he’s learned that Murray is a fierce competitor despite his soft-spoken personality.
Hopkins added that when Murray gathered a handful of offensive players in Dallas during the offseason, it was clear he wants build relationships on the way to winning.
“It’s not just on the field but off the field,” Hopkins said. “Us communicating, texting each other, calling each other and building that camaraderie of something that’s going to last a long time, not just while we’re playing football but after football.”
“My expectation is us becoming best friends and doing everything together. I have to be on the same page as my quarterback, no matter what.”
Murray was usually good — and occasionally great — during his rookie season. He threw for 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and also ran for 544 yards and four touchdowns. He said he’d like to make quicker decisions in the passing game: Murray was sacked a league-high 48 times and many were caused by his tendency to hold on to the ball for too long.
“I think that’s honestly one of the main focal points is improving our dropback game, which obviously, it was mediocre last season,” Murray said. “But I think a lot of that comes with reps and time playing with the guys.”
“Getting D-Hop is obviously tremendous.”
One of the Cardinals’ other important offensive pieces is nearly 15 years older than Murray. Fitzgerald, who turns 37 later in the preseason, is entering his 16th season in the NFL and with the Cardinals.
Hopkins said he was fortunate to have a mentor like Andre Johnson early in his career with the Texans. He expects Fitzgerald can provide the same type of support.
“To have another Hall of Fame receiver is great,” Hopkins said. “I wouldn’t ask for it to be any other way. Going into my eighth year I’m considered a veteran, but obviously, Larry is almost double that, and wisdom beats anything.”
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