© 2024 ALLCITY Network Inc.
All rights reserved.
The NFL is suspending Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for six games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
It’s the most significant blow to the Cardinals’ 2022 offseason to date.
The ban overshadows even the free-agent departures of Chandler Jones, Christian Kirk, and Chase Edmonds. Still, it emphasizes the importance of landing Marquise “Hollywood” Brown on the first night of the NFL Draft, and perhaps lends some insight into why it was so important.
On his social media platforms, Hopkins posted that he was shocked that a test from November came back with trace elements of a banned substance.
He apologized to the fans, teammates, and the Cardinals organization. Hopkins says he takes a holistic approach, is careful with what he puts in his body, and intends to determine what caused the PED violation.
Hopkins is returning from surgery to repair his injured MCL, which along with a hamstring injury, limited him to 10 games in 2021. The wideout says his rehab is ahead of schedule. The difference between the Cardinals’ offense with Hopkins and without is significant.
With Hokins in the lineup, the Cardinals went 8-2, with the offense averaging 30.2 points and 3.6 touchdowns per game. Scoring at that clip would be good enough for third in the NFL.
Without Hopkins, Arizona went 3-5, including a brutal playoff loss. The offense struggled at 19.7 points and 2.3 touchdowns per game, which would place the Cardinals in the bottom 10 in the league in scoring.
Hopkins was a monster in the red zone last season. He finished tied for eighth in the league despite missing seven games with eight red-zone touchdowns. The Cardinals fell from seventh in the NFL red zone touchdown scoring percentage to 15th.
If the Cards don’t have their bye week in the first six weeks of the 2022 season, Hopkins is eligible to return in Week 7. The NFL unveils its schedule on May 12. According to Pro Football Talk, Hopkins will lose up to $5.223 million due to suspension.
Hopkins has 157 receptions for 1,979 yards and 14 touchdown catches in two seasons with the Cardinals.
The addition of Hollywood Brown and drafting tight end Trey McBride in the second round softens the blow of losing Hopkins for six games. Brown can hold down WR1 duties to start the season. He was the top wideout for the Baltimore Ravens during his three NFL seasons. He mentioned that he was looking forward to Hopkins taking the attention of opposing defenses in his introductory press conference, but that will have to wait until Week 7. Meanwhile, McBride was the best collegiate tight end with 90 catches for 1,121 receiving yards in 2021.
Despite being small in stature at 5-feet-9, Brown has been efficient in his red-zone career. He has hauled in 27 of 43 targets in close for 12 touchdowns. It doesn’t hurt that he was Kyler Murray’s top receiver while both starred at Oklahoma.
Brown should take the pressure off A.J. Green, who struggled as Kyler Murray’s top red-zone target in Hopkins’ absence last season. Green only hauled in four of his 14 red-zone targets in 2021.
Antoine Wesley filled in for Hopkins to finish the season and returned on a one-year deal. Wesley caught 19 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. He should be the top option to replace Hopkins when training camp begins in late July.
Wesley would takeover the X receiver role, Green at Z, with Brown handling Christian Kirk’s role last season and Rondale Moore getting opportunities in the slot. Zach Ertz returns as the Cardinals’ primary tight end and red-zone target.
The biggest key to overcoming the void left by Hopkins is quarterback Kyler Murray. The signal-caller is staring down a historic extension and will need to elevate his play and the level of play from his teammates.
When Murray was on the field without his top target, Hopkins, the Cardinals were just 1-4.
Get Arizona's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Arizona sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from PHNX's writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!