How DeAndre Hopkins Can Become Matt Schaub's Best Friend
The former Clemson Tigers wide receiver is someone that can step onto the field immediately and impact the game in a positive way for the Texans.
Houston needed to add a more dynamic element to the passing game and Hopkins can certainly provide that. In doing so, he may just take over the role of Matt Schaub's best friend from Andre Johnson.
Hopkins is 6'1", 224 pounds and plays with the type of physical force that translates tremendously well to the next level. He uses his frame for leverage, runs crisp routes and has sure hands that allow him to make tough catches in traffic.
He's also going to take a ton of pressure off Johnson on the opposite side of the field. It has been no secret that Houston has struggled to find a solid No. 2 option over the past few seasons, leaving Johnson to deal with double-teams on a consistent basis.
Perhaps more importantly, Hopkins is a perfect fit for the type of vertical passing game that Schaub excels at. He can stretch the field and force opposing secondaries to spread out their coverage. Teams cannot afford to load up the box in attempts to slow down running back Arian Foster because Houston now has players that can get deep on both sides of the field.
Let's look at an example of Hopkins' speed from a game against Virginia Tech. Here we will see him use a quick stutter-step to get past a flat-footed corner and fly toward the end zone before the safety has time to react and get across the coverage:
However, Hopkins is not a one-trick pony who is going to utilize his straight-line speed on every play. He is fully capable of being valuable in the short-to-intermediate passing game, and of course on the goal line.
Here we see what is perhaps Hopkins' best collegiate highlight. He heads for the corner of the end zone against Auburn and makes a catch that has to be seen to be believed.
This variety of skills will make Hopkins an instant asset in a receiving corps that is desperate for production. Last season, Johnson had 1,598 receiving yards, more than 1,000 yards higher than any other Houston wideout. Tight end Owen Daniels actually ranked second on the team with 716 receiving yards.
Touchdown receptions were just as lopsided. Johnson and Kevin Walter combined for seven of them, while all other receivers accounted for a total of two (Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin).
Schaub was often under a lot of pressure from opposing defenses because he was not given enough time to take a proper three- or five-step drop and dissect the holes in coverage. He played under duress, with defenders closing in and forcing him to dump the ball to tight ends, running backs and fullbacks.
This strategy was not a failure by any means. Houston ranked 11th in the league in passing yards per game with 239.4 and Schaub still threw for more than 4,000 yards. However, a diversified offense is only going to help this team moving forward.
Schaub averaged 11.5 yards gained per pass completion last season. This was the lowest number he posted since his rookie season and showed that the Texans were being forced to more heavily rely on short passes. This is not when Houston's offense is at its most explosive.
Then there is the fact that Johnson is going to be 32 years old when the season starts and has missed 12 games over the past three years. He's getting older, and Hopkins has time to both learn and develop alongside him while also being groomed to be the heir apparent to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
Hopkins can do a little bit of everything right now and his college career showed that he is someone who will continue to improve with each passing season. His receptions, touchdowns and yards all went up each year he spent with Clemson.
His 18 touchdown receptions last year showcased just what a dominant force he can be, and there is no denying that the Texans have added a versatile weapon to their offensive arsenal. Schaub needed depth at wide receiver if he was going to see any improvement in the passing game. Bringing in Hopkins is a huge step in the right direction.
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