Arizona Cardinals gunslinger Kyler Murray is having himself a breakout campaign, but the quarterback’s breakout season is his own doing, as he’s getting some help in the process.
Fourteen catches, 151 yards. 8 catches, 68 yards, 1 touchdown. 10 catches, 137 yards. 7 catches, 41 yards. 6 catches, 131 yards, 1 touchdown. 2 catches, 73 yards. 10 catches, 103 yards, 1 touchdown. If you were looking for consistency in a year filled with anything but, DeAndre Hopkins has provided that – and more – in his first season with the Arizona Cardinals.
After the eventful offseason that saw Hopkins get shipped to Arizona for an absolutely one-sided deal that easily went the way of the Cardinals, Nuk was out to prove that he was still the absolute monster that he had shown while with the Houston Texans. His success was in large part due to the relationship that he had established early on with Deshaun Watson, a very underrated element that was going to provide some serious ramifications for both sides involved in this deal.
For Houston, they not only shipped out their best offensive weapon not named Watson, but they also threw, yet again and foolishly, all of their eggs into the Bill O’Brien basket, something that has been burning them ever since he was hired on as the team’s head coach and general manager. There is a reason that O’Brien currently is out of a job, and unfortunately, Houston realized the fault in their ways too late to actually try and keep their core franchise cornerstones in place.
As a member of the AFC South division, Houston, along with Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, were afforded the luxury of continuously underperforming for a divisional title and a postseason berth, something that has seemingly been passed onto the NFC East now. But the Hopkins-Watson connection was exactly why they always were in the running for the divisional crown, and even with Houston’s tough schedule to start the year, their 1-6 record is a very telling sign of exactly what the team is and what they feel like they are moving forward.
Even though trading Hopkins was an absolutely terrible move that has set the Texans back even farther than they already were, both the Cardinals and the former Clemson receiver are ecstatic about the new direction for both parties, something that also has boosted the stock of his new starting quarterback, Kyler Murray.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s ascension from NFL bench player to assistant coach all the way to head coach of Texas Tech was a combination of things just going perfectly all for the same person… until his luck ran out and he was canned at Texas Tech. Seen as one of the brighter offensive minds in the game, regardless of the success of the Red Raiders, Kingsbury’s next move was to join the USC staff as their offensive coordinator, something that was bound to set him up nicely to become a head coach somewhere else in two-plus seasons.
But the buck stopped there for Kingsbury at the NCAA level, as both the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals held a significant interest in him for their vacant head coaching jobs, something that obviously appealed to Kingsbury. The lone issue standing in Kingsbury way – USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann was adamant about not letting Kingsbury interview for those jobs, a right that he was able to exercise since Kingsburgy was under contract at USC – was not an issue for too long, as Kingsbury ended up quitting so he could take the interviews.
Lucky for him, the Cardinals held the most interest, and when the Jets made the absolute best move of that offseason by pivoting to their current dumpster fire of a head coach in Adam Gase, the writing was on the wall for both parties, and Kingsbury went to the desert as a first-time NFL HC.
But the life story of Kingsbury and how he handpicked Kyler Murray to be his franchise QB (jettisoning incumbent Josh Rosen in the process) is not the purpose here – what matters is the kind of relationship that both Hopkins and Murray have been able to establish from day one, something that surely holds similar elements of Hopkins’ time in Houston.
Murray and Watson share a ton of similarities in their brief respective stints in the NFL – mobile quarterbacks, with cannons for arms, and are given full reign of the offense as they see fit. But even with Watson being the taller option that also is more on the physical side in terms of how he plays and such, Murray’s smaller size and stature helps him stand out as well for, surprisingly enough, good reasons.
The biggest factor that is working in the favor of Hopkins where he is now versus where he used to be is the coaching staff, gameplan, and just team outlook – the Texans seemed quite complacent with mediocrity (see the previous statement about struggling and still winning the AFC South title) and were willing to maintain an average season, but the Cardinals, with having just slightly smelled a hint of success, understand what it takes, we just need to see if they can take it in that direction or not.
Kingsbury is a very different coach than O’Brien, even though they both made the ascension from the collegiate ranks to the pros. O’Brien was the more household name at the time of his step up, as his time coaching the Penn State Nittany Lions was filled with considerable success, proving a rationale for why he needed to make that jump.
But for Kingsbury, he actually had just reached a relatively low point in his collegiate coaching career, something that was quite opposite of what had put him in the race for an NFL job. While the Cardinals’ ownership was not known for making those kinds of risky choices when it comes to leaders of your franchise, Kingsbury’s entrance has been exactly the type of revival that this team has needed, especially to stay competitive in the tight NFC West division, that could boast four teams all vying for postseason slots as the year winds down.
Hopkins is a generational talent, someone that should have never been traded from Houston, and a player that certainly deserves to be a part of any success that is earned out in the desert. His abilities to mesh right off the bat with Murray speaks not only to the atmosphere of that organization but more to the type of player that Hopkins is and how he carries himself, always setting himself up for success, regardless of what situation he is put into.
Murray’s breakout campaign this season was a commonly-forecasted element of both league and fantasy football analysis this offseason, and he has certainly not disappointed up to this point.
The fast, intuitive offensive style that the Cardinals are running, with Murray and Hopkins leading the charge and Kingsbury orchestrating, is not necessarily surprising, considering the strides that Murray made in his first year in the NFL last year as a rookie.
With Hopkins helping provide that explosive security blanket for Kyler Murray in each and every game, the Cardinals look to be in a fantastic spot moving forward, something they need to use to their advantage if they want to become a yearly entrant into the NFL’s postseason pool.