Christian Kirk Tabbed as WR 'Who Will Reshape the NFL'
Despite not playing a full 16-game season due to injuries the last two years, Arizona Cardnials wide receiver Christian Kirk has captured the attention of defenses throughout the league. He was a reliable target for 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year quarterback Kyler Murray last season and is hoping to continue his progressions despite the franchise's addition of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
"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. So, 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."
As "WR3" in the rotation, likely behind Hopkins and veteran wideout Larry Fitzgerald, Kirk feels he will have mismatch opportunities against opposing defensive backs who are assigned to him because other better cover defenders will be focused elsewhere.
Kirk has gained popularity amongst media outlets as well. Bleacher Report recently included him on a list of "young receivers (who) will rise quickly up the all-time leaderboards, changing benchmarks and expectations for their position as they go."
At 23-years-old, Kirk improved in every major statistical category in his second season. He jumped from 68 targets to 108, 43 receptions to 68, 590 receiving yards to 709 and equalled his rookie touchdown total with three.
"[Kirk] runs the risk of being overshadowed by Larry Fitzgerald and newcomer DeAndre Hopkins this season," Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier wrote. "Then again, the Cardinals used four- or five-receiver personnel groups a league-high 33 percent of offensive snaps last season (per Sharp Football), so there will be plenty of opportunities to go around. Kirk is the best choice among the Cardinals receivers when head coach Kliff Kingsbury gets the urge to call some over-engineered screen or shovel pass, which is often.
"Once Kingsbury reigns in his enthusiasm for double-reverse screen passes, his offense could be as effective and revolutionary as the (Kansas City) Chiefs and (Baltimore) Ravens offenses have become. If that happens, the speedy, versatile Kirk will be in the thick of things."
After playing in just 25 games (20 starts) across two seasons, Kirk's primary objective for Year 3 is to stay available. He cannot achieve any of the goals he aspires if he misses games because of injuries.
"My main goal going into this year, to be honest, is just stay healthy," Kirk said. "Regardless of 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. 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. So, the next step is just taking that next jump and just keep on progressing and showing that I am getting better."
His responsibilities also have the potential of expanding this season as a punt returner — a role he played while at Texas A&M — after the Cardinals lost wide receiver Pharoh Cooper to the Carolina Panthers in free agency.
"I'm willing to do it," Kirk said. "I'm always willing to do punt return. It's been a part of my game my whole entire life. So, if (special teams coordinator) coach (Jeff) Rodgers asked me to go back there, I wouldn't even think twice about it. But that decision isn't necessarily on me, it's on coach Rodgers. So, like I said, if he gives me the opportunity and he wants me to go back there, I'll be more than happy."