Christian Kirk Expected to Take 'Next Step' in Third Year
It has long been speculated since the Arizona Cardinals addition of superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in March that incoming third-year wideout Christian Kirk would suffer as a result. He has tried to subdue that notion repeatedly, although it is hard to argue his touches will not decrease as they are shared with both Hopkins and probable future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
Although the prospects for his personal statistics may not look as bright, Kirk has said in the past he is thrilled to be able to work alongside and learn from two of football's best at his position. He believes it will set him up well as he progresses through his career.
"I wouldn't say that it sets me back by no means," Kirk said in June. "... On the field, I think, if anything, DeAndre can can help me get there. And, for me, a lot of people could look at it as, 'Maybe it is a setback for him,' or 'he won't see as many targets,' or whatnot. But the fact that I'm playing with arguably a first-ballot Hall of Famer, arguably the best receiver to ever play the game (Fitzgerald) and then one of the best receivers, arguably the best receiver currently in the game right now (Hopkins). If those are the two guys in front of me that I'm learning from and following in their footsteps, then I have no problem with that because they're ultimately in the same position that I want to be in.
"Why not be able to play next to, and be able to work and follow and just be able to mirror what they do every single day? I think that's an advantage toward me. I don't see it as being a disadvantage for me or maybe pushing that process back."
Last season while dealing with persistent ankle issues that limited him to 13 games (all starts), Kirk still improved in every major statistical category from his rookie year. He jumped from 68 targets to 108, 43 receptions to 68, 590 receiving yards to 709 and equaled his rookie touchdown total with three.
As for the team's expectations of Kirk this year, they have not dwindled despite an influx of talent. In fact, he believes that there should be more opportunity this year as opposing defense's key on Hopkins and Fitzgerald.
"I expect him to take the next step as a player," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said recently. "You get DeAndre in, you have [Fitzgerald], you have some of these young guys. I see the production and I see the potential to go through the roof. I mentioned last year, before he got hurt, I thought he was going to have a really, really big year. And unfortunately he had the ankle that slowed him down, but you see his mentality, you see second year in this offense, third year in the pros. He just looks like a different guy and having a guy like DeAndre around him day in, day out is just going to make him that much better of a player and that much better of a weapon for us."
As he enters his third season, Kirk has an agenda of simply staying available.
"The good thing about it is, if you look at it statistically, hurt or not, I was still able to progress in my second year," he said. "The next step is just taking that next jump and just keep on progressing and showing that I am getting better ... My main goal going into this year, to be honest, is just stay healthy. Regardless if it's out of my control or not, just doing everything that I can to be on the field for every single game. Just keep progressing."