DeAndre Hopkins' performance on Sunday wasn’t surprising.
The Arizona Cardinals wide receiver has reached a point where six receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns is par for the course.
Returning for his second year with Arizona, Hopkins has racked up impressive stats. Whether with the Houston Texans or Arizona, Hopkins becomes an immediate weapon.
But his football IQ, while unquantifiable, is just as impressive.
In the victory over the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Hopkins showcased his knowledge of how to manipulate defenders to free him up for a score.
Early in the first quarter, Hopkins opened up the season with a 5-yard touchdown reception.
But that is oversimplifying the play. Quarterback Kyler Murray scrambled to his right and sent a bullet to Hopkins who caught it in mid-air and planted both feet for in the end zone for the touchdown.
The score was a product of Hopkins halting during his route in the end zone, causing Titans defender Jackrabbit Jenkins to run into him, which Hopkins then used for momentum to burst forward and catch the ball.
“It’s some Jedi-type stuff. I’ve never seen anything like it,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “ He [Hopkins] looks back and stops and then the guy pushes him forward and it creates separation and he catches a touchdown. He just has a great feel for getting open.”
The force was strong with “Nuk” during his second touchdown as well. He demonstrated a next-level ability to predict a defender's movement on the field and then use explosiveness to take advantage of it.
Murray threw a quick pass to Hopkins' back shoulder as he was turning to the inside of the field. Knowing the safety was going to rush down to tackle him midway through his route, Hopkins pivoted, spinning in the opposite direction of safety Kevin Byard's momentum. From there it was an easy sprint into the end zone.
“He’s just a smart football player,” Murray said. “[He] understands leverage.”
Hopkins' awareness of defenders' leverage and momentum gives him a valuable third eye that some receivers never achieve. The experience of nine seasons in the NFL and facing some of the best cornerbacks and safeties surely has led to a catalog of defensive maneuvers to stop him.
Apart from A.J. Green, the Cardinals wide receiver room is a young bunch. Andy Isabella, Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore all can benefit from learning the techniques Hopkins can toss out effortlessly.
The Cardinals home fans will hopefully see some impressive plays from Hopkins this week as he will face the Minnesota Vikings, who bring with them experienced cornerback Patrick Peterson.