Although he has had very limited gridiron interaction with his new quarterback Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has already begun forming his own impressions of his new pass-thrower.
Although it may appear like a regression on paper from his previous Houston Texans gunslinger Deshaun Watson — a No. 20 ranking in the recently-released NFL Top 100 compared to Murray's debut at No. 90 — Hopkins was quick to illuminate his eagerness for working with the second-year Cardinal.
“Kyler has an arm,” Hopkins told reporters Monday. “Obviously, I’m thankful to play with a quarterback like that who can make any throw, anywhere on the field and has confidence to do it. I think just from what I’ve seen, we’re going to have a good time playing football together because obviously he’s confident in his arm. The guy is very talented, very smart, high football IQ. What I’ve seen so far is someone with a very strong arm.”
Despite playing in a self-professed run-first offense with the Texans during his tenure there, Hopkins continued to put up astounding numbers year after year. This besides the fact that he had a revolving door at quarterback and had to relearn a new starter practically every offseason.
It is an aspect of the profession he has become accustomed to. At the same time, this year is different. Not only is he learning a new signal-caller, but also a new system altogether under Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his Air Raid offense.
One area he is not worried about, though, is establishing cohesiveness with Murray.
“I think I will have time to develop chemistry with Kyler,” Hopkins said. “Kyler’s going into his second year, obviously. He’s advanced in this offense. Other guys also. Last year was the first year of a lot of people being in this offense. You can tell just from the first day that — I wasn’t here, but just hearing from guys — we’re far (more) advanced than where we were at this point last year. He’s matured in this offense. I’m new to it, but he’s doing a good job of keeping me up to par with things and also the other guys around me. But I think we will have time to develop chemistry once we get out there and throw a little bit more against the defense. I think that will help. Obviously, we don’t have a lot of time to get ready, so every rep really counts. But Kyler’s mindset is, 'We’re going to make it work,' so that’s my mindset as well.”
The connection between the two technically began after outreach following Hopkins' trade to Arizona in March. However, the real in-person bond — a crucial element for bonding both on and off the field — had to wait until players reported to training camp Tuesday as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic offsetting the traditional workout programs in the summer.
Still, Murray organized plans for a majority of the Cardinals offensive skill players to make a trip to his hometown of Dallas, Tex., for private workouts in which Hopkins attended. He said that was a critical component of where the two stand with each other at present.
"It was very valuable," Hopkins said. "It was something that I think, obviously, we're going to continue to do once we get free time, a little off time, build chemistry like that. But Kyler getting us together in Dallas was something that I expected of him, something I knew he was going to do. And him being the guy he is, he wants to win, so that was very expected of him to do. And we really don't have a lot of time together, obviously, but we're making the best of it right now. And I haven't had a season where I've really had a lot of offseasons with a quarterback. That really hasn't been a thing, a problem in the past and I don't see it being a problem now."
With Murray's emergence and Hopkins' reputation — landing at No. 8 in the Top 100 — the duo has the prestige to make a run for the top tandem in the league this season. Of course, there is steep competition from the likes of Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wideout Michael Thomas, Buccaneers tandem of quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Mike Evans, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones, among others. Yet, if Murray takes the leap many expect him to, and Hopkins continues his current pace and trajectory, the Cardinals have the potential to be a dangerous team, or at least one capable of making a playoff push in an expanded format.
At the end of the day, Hopkins has one true goal for his time in the desert.
"The conversation with Kliff and I is winning and doing what we have to do to win," he said. "Whatever that takes."