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DeAndre Hopkins Makes Sure Opponents Feel His YAC

Cardinals receiver has piled up 47 percent of his yards post-reception this season

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins runs after the catch against the Lions last weekend.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins runs after the catch against the Lions last weekend.

DeAndre Hopkins came back to the line of scrimmage, only it wasn't for the ball but with the ball.

The All-Pro wide receiver made the catch but in one motion ran a couple of yards toward Kyler Murray, making the two defenders on either side of him crash into each other. Hopkins then plowed ahead to gain another six yards he wouldn't have without the move, getting 18 yards total.

"Not being the fastest guy on the field," coach Kliff Kingsbury said, "he has a unique way to make people miss."

Trading for Hopkins was the power move of the Cardinals' offseason, but even they probably didn't envision (especially with Hopkins' limited exposure to Murray in the offseason) this kind of start. Hopkins leads the NFL in catches (32) and yards (356) and has been, along with Murray's rushing, the keys to the team's offense so far.

Hidden in there is Hopkins' ballet after he gets the ball.

In Hopkins' first practice -- his first reception -- with the Cardinals, he had a catch-and-pivot that left the defensive back grabbing air as Hopkins raced down the sideline. The numbers underscore what it has meant for Hopkins already.

In 2018, Hopkins had 387 yards after the catch according to, and 1,572 yards total – 24.6 percent. Last season, he also had 387 yards after catch out of 1,165 yards – 33.2 percent.

This season, his YAC total is already 167 out of 356 yards – 46.9 percent.

"Yards after catch was something I wanted to get better at coming into the season," Hopkins said. "Kliff put me in position to do those things and make plays with the ball and go one-on-one with guys.

"It's not just me, it's the blocking, guys coming out to get a defender off of me. Yards after catch is something that previously in my past I wasn't good at. That's something I wanted to improve in my game and I think I have so far."

Hopkins was an all-state basketball player while in high school in South Carolina and even got into seven games with Clemson after his freshman football season. Sometimes, Hopkins looks like he's pulling off a killer crossover without dribbling.

But Hopkins said his moves after the catch are about his offseason training, not a basketball career that wound down a decade ago.

"My balance, and how I prepare, I'm able to make those cuts on one leg when those guys are running full speed," Hopkins said.

Hopkins is tied for the NFL lead in targets with 37, with Murray throwing his way about a third of the time this season. While Kingsbury acknowledged he has to find ways to incorporate Larry Fitzgerald more often, he knows Hopkins needs to remain a top choice.

"You want to make sure there are those plays of just getting the ball in his hands," Kingsbury said. "It sort of settles our offense, settles our quarterback because you know something good is going to happen. It's similar to how Fitz gets us going. Our team responds well when they are getting the ball."

Later in the Lions game, Hopkins took a pass three yards behind the line of scrimmage, juked one defender immediately and then put a move on to fool two more, eventually clearing the way for an 11-yard gain.

That drive – as did the one where Hopkins gained 18 earlier in the game – resulted in a touchdown.

"Everyone said he's not a 4.3 guy, this and that, whatever, (but) he catches the ball and makes stuff happen," Murray said. "He's done that his whole career. He catches contested catches, he creates separation, if there isn't that much separation he can catch any ball thrown to him. It's hard to stop a guy like him.

"To his credit, he's very slippery after the catch."