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DeAndre Hopkins
Arizona Cardinals

DeAndre Hopkins Suspension Could Be Devastating Blow To Cardinals

  • Justin Melo
  • May 3, 2022
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The Arizona Cardinals were dealt a massive blow on Monday afternoon when it was announced that superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 regular season for violating the league’s NFL Performance Enhancing Drug policy. Hopkins responded to the suspension via a statement released on his official social media accounts.

The suspension represents a significant early-season loss for an offense that struggled mightily without Hopkins’ services while he was unavailable due to injury a year ago. Hopkins was unfortunately absent from seven regular-season contests last season, first due to a recurring hamstring issue and second due to a season-ending torn MCL suffered in mid-December. In those seven contests without Hopkins, the Cardinals compiled a less-than-desirable record of 3-4, including blowout defeats at the hands of the lowly Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers. The Cardinals also lost crucial late-season contests to the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks, which hampered their final playoff positioning. 

In those seven games without Hopkins, Arizona’s offense looked like a shell of its regular self while averaging a middling 21 points per contest. These numbers experience a monumental shift forward with Hopkins in the lineup. 

In 10 regular-season contests with Hopkins healthy and serving as Kyler Murray’s No. 1 target on the boundary, the Cardinals compiled a league-dominating record of 8-2, including early-season blowout victories over the AFC’s eventual No. 1 seed Tennessee Titans and eventual Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams. Arizona’s points-per-game average shot up to 30.2 points per contest. That’s nearly 10 points per game more with Hopkins in the lineup as opposed to without. The Cardinals also averaged 258.3 passing yards per contest with Hopkins in the lineup and just 241.8 without him on the field. 

That difference may sound minimal, but it becomes significantly larger when taking context into account. The Cardinals were obviously playing from behind in several of those games without Hopkins, particularly in their blowout losses, forcing them to throw the ball on a more consistent basis, yet they still couldn’t match their passing-yard totals from the sample size that had an available Hopkins.

Hopkins was also unavailable for the Cardinals’ embarrassing wild-card defeat to their arch-nemesis Rams, a 34-11 beatdown the Cardinals have yet to live down throughout the course of the offseason. Without Hopkins in that crucial postseason contest, the Cardinals managed just 122 net passing yards while quite arguably playing their worst game of the entire campaign.

News of Hopkins’ suspension also brings more clarity to why the Cardinals stunningly traded away their first-round selection in order to acquire Marquise “Hollywood” Brown from the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Cardinals were surely already aware of Hopkins’ impending suspension and General Manager Steve Keim made a desperate move in hopes of offsetting the impact of Hopkins’ upcoming absence. 

Many analysts felt the Cardinals overpaid for Brown’s services. After all, Brown enjoyed his first truly fruitful campaign in 2021 after previously failing to meet expectations as a rookie and sophomore pass-catcher. The Cardinals will now soon have to make a sizable long-term financial commitment to Brown. Arizona has already exercised the fifth-year option on Brown, which means he’ll remain on their roster through 2023 while earning a fully-guaranteed $13.4 million. It represents an acceptable dollar amount given what receivers are demanding on the market these days, but Arizona will surely have to sign Brown to a much more lucrative contract extension in the near future. It’s also worth noting the Philadelphia Eagles acquired a much more capable receiver in A.J. Brown for a similar price tag.

The Cardinals are entering an extremely crucial season in 2022. The team has earned a reputation for suffering late-season collapses under the guidance of Keim and Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury. Fans have questioned the mental toughness of the franchise and Kingsbury’s capabilities of getting them across the finish line. Another similar fate may force owner Michael Bidwell to go in a different direction in 2023 while relieving Keim and Kingsbury of their duties. 

Arizona must achieve more consistent success in 2022, but the suspension of Hopkins just made life that much more difficult for Keim and Kingsbury.