Just when the future was looking bright for the Arizona Cardinals, things have been looking rough since Week 14. They not only led the NFC West but the entire conference for much of the season. Then No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins went down with a torn MCL in a home loss to a division rival, the Los Angeles Rams. Without Hopkins, they would lose three of their last four regular season games and were drilled 34-11 in the wildcard playoffs en route to the Rams.
It could be difficult for the Cardinals to get off to the same stellar start as last season, now that they’re going through the first six games of the season without one of the NFL’s best wide receivers. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Hopkins will be suspended for six games due to a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. no COVID vaccine, but he uses substances banned by the NFL. Maybe he’s just afraid of needles.
This isn’t exciting news for the Cardinals for a number of reasons. The main thing is that their offense is significantly better with Hopkins in the lineup. With a balanced roster, their defense ended the season in ninth place in the weighted DVOA. Kliff Kingsbury’s squad looks on paper a team poised to be a less-than-stellar NFC contender. Without the threat Hopkins offers as an unbeatable force at wide receiver, 114 receptions for 1,407 yards in his first season with the Cardinals in 2020, their undersized quarterback Kyler Murray is making life that much harder.
Speaking of Murray, the Cardinals’ relationship with him has been a bit rocky since the playoff loss. He reportedly retired from the game at the end and later in the offseason scrubbed his social media accounts on everything related to the cardinals. The organization allegedly felt that he needed to be a better leader and take on more responsibility.
The relationship seems to have improved in recent weeks. Murray released a statement that he is committed to the Cardinals, though he and several other veterans will not be volunteering for the team’s offseason conditioning. The Cardinals also seem willing to give him what he really wants, some of that real quarterback money. The 2019 No. 1 overall has proven to be a dynamic player, guiding the franchise to its first playoff finish since 2015. Cardinal General Manager Steve Keim told Adam Schein on Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio that once the draft is finalized this summer they can take the time to negotiate with Murray – then, he said, deals for players like him are usually finalized.
Luckily for them, they made a move to bolster their receiving corps with their draft day trade to acquire Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, a former teammate of Murray in Oklahoma. Murray is certainly in favor of the move, and they’d better rediscover their connection from the 2018 season quickly because it’s not as if Brown himself posted Hopkins-like stats with the Baltimore Ravens during Lamar Jackson’s 2020 MVP season.
These two U-6 footers will need to team up with another nimble member of their club, Rondale Moore, to try and be quick enough to keep this team competitive until Hopkins can deliver on offense what folks do brought to judge the competence of the Houston Texans for not keeping him. Hopkins is a player who is open on almost every single down. He doesn’t have to rush past someone or run a perfectly timed route. Sometimes he can just run to a spot, turn around, and use his athleticism and size to pluck the football out of the air.
Though the Cardinals made the right move to recoup that loss, they will still be without one of the NFL’s best players for more than a third of the 2022 season. Another bad news in a tough off-season that might give them a pat on the back for a second. They made the playoffs for the first time since Peyton Manning was in the NFL.