Just a couple of days ago, the stock of the Arizona Cardinals was rising after they acquired wide receiver Marquise Brown in a draft-day trade.
After a promising 11-6 season, it looked like perhaps they were on their way to becoming true Super Bowl contenders, if not this coming season then perhaps the next.
But on Monday, it was announced that the National Football League had suspended star Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins for six games after he violated the league’s policies on performance-enhancing drugs.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 2, 2022
Now, they will be without their main offensive weapon for a good chunk of the 2022 campaign, and it could doom their season.
DeAndre Hopkins Is All That
In his nine seasons in the NFL, Hopkins has proved that he is one of the very best at his position.
He has posted more than 1,500 yards in a season twice and at least 11 touchdowns three times, and he has five Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro First-team nods under his belt.
After years of toiling with the mediocre Houston Texans, the Cardinals acquired him via trade two years ago.
Hopkins has continued to be productive in Arizona, and young, ascendant quarterback Kyler Murray has helped him out.
The former Clemson University star missed seven games this past season with hamstring and MCL injuries, but he still managed 572 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 contests.
Without him, Arizona will be hard-pressed to put up plenty of points on the board.
The Cardinals Already Needed Help Offensively
Despite the presence of Hopkins, fellow wideouts Christian Kirk and A.J. Green and tight end Zach Ertz, Arizona only finished 11th in total points, 10th in passing yards, and 12th in passing touchdowns.
The acquisition of Brown was expected to move the needle offensively and get the team into elite status offensively or at least close to it.
Now, it will be an all-hands-on-deck situation for the six games that Hopkins will be mandated to miss.
Kirk has moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and although Green once made seven straight Pro Bowls, his production has dipped the past two seasons following a serious ankle injury that caused him to miss the 2019 season.
Brown is capable of stepping up and putting up big numbers, but he only has three years of pro experience, and his high-water marks so far in his career have been 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns.
There will have to be an adjustment period during which Murray will have to develop chemistry with Brown and Green.
Green has admitted that his chemistry with Murray was off in 2021, his first with the Cardinals.
“There is a lot of room (for growth),” Green said. “For me, it’s communicating with him what I see, and what he wants me to do and how he wants me to run this (particular) route. I think last year there was a lacking on my part. I didn’t really communicate with him about stuff like that because I didn’t want to put a lot of stuff on his plate.”
When Murray and Hopkins played together this past season, the Cardinals looked outstanding, but when Murray didn’t have Hopkins on the field due to injury, Arizona really struggled offensively and Murray’s production went down sharply.
Last season, Kyler Murray went 1-4 with DeAndre Hopkins out of the lineup and 8-2 when Hopkins was active.
Murray's QBR with Hopkins off the field was 46, compared to 62 with Hopkins on the field. pic.twitter.com/tg3eIS5XaW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 2, 2022
It could be a sign of things to come.