DeAndre Hopkins Will Move Around As Titans' Young WRs Develop

DeAndre HopkinsNASHVILLE, Tenn. – In 2019 when Tim Kelly took over as the Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator, he diversified DeAndre Hopkins’ game.

The receiver had played 336 snaps out of the slot in 2014, but otherwise had predominantly worked outside. Under Kelly he played a large share inside – with 342 snaps inside as compared to 762 wide, per Pro Football Focus.

Fifty-six percent of his 104 catches and 52 percent of his 1,165 yards came out of the slot, per Sports Info Solutions.

The production out of those 31 percent of his snaps was impressive.

“Obviously, Tim knew how to call plays, and it worked,” Hopkins said. “We were very productive and we were a couple of games away from getting where we wanted to get to. I think that helps a lot, not just having me outside where keeps can kind of double me or just take me out of the game at one position. But move me around. It doesn’t just help myself but the offense as well.”

Kelly will have to be creative with his new No. 1 receiver based on the limitations of the rest of Tennessee’s wideouts. 

Two second-year players will have to work to diversify as the team works Hopkins in.

When not in the slot he’s been primarily the X, the wide receiver on the line in the most space. While Burks has worked both outside spots he seems to be cast more as the X so far. And Kyle Philips is very much a slot receiver (an F). That would make Hopkins ideal as the Z at least to start out, which puts him off the line with more time to start off and beat man coverage.

Will the Titans be able to move Hopkins inside and out like Kelly did last time he had him?

“There are times based on personnel or call or formation that the guys can remember,” Mike Vrabel said. “We’re only going to give these guys as much as they can remember. And we’ll start to introduce that and put them in different spots.

"Formationally, you can do that based on who’s the X, who’s the Z, who’s the F and moving guys around. So based on the call that we have and who we want to try to put in that position, I think we’ll be able to do those things eventually.”

That’s a big, element to this big addition. The growth of Burks and Philips will have a direct bearing on Hopkins.

And he wants to help.

He said he approaches helping a young receiver room as a challenge.

“Someone like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald kind of showed me the way, so I approaching it as a challenge to help those guys get to where they want to get to,” he said. “And obviously it’s about the team. So whatever can do to help those guys on or off the field that’s what I will do.”

Other elements out of Hopkins’ introductory press conference:

💥 Hopkins like Vrabel because he doesn’t only offer praise but criticism as well. He got a text from the Titans coach after one game with the Cardinals.

“He asked me why I didn’t catch a ball that I should have caught,” Hopkins said. “I appreciate that right away because that;’s how he was in Houston with me.”

💥 He said the key to his sustained success is his relationships with quarterbacks.

“I can't go out and throw the ball to myself being patient, not having the ego, putting in the extra work,” he said. “As much as people say I don't practice, I don't think I can have those kind of numbers without practicing. So it's still not just things you guys see, but also like I said, outside of the football field, being on the same page and being reliable.”

He’s played with a variety of quarterbacks, none besides Deshaun Watson who were very good. But prided himself on working hard to develop good relationships with them all. 

“Off the field, not just on the field, speaking to those guys, hanging out with them, doing the little things,” he said. “I played with a lot of quarterbacks and that's one thing that I realized that helps extra communication, doing the little things that you don't see on the practice field and going over things in the film room trying to be perfect. All quarterbacks are different but at the same time they're very similar. So just trying to find certain things that they like and being on the same page with.”

He also said he thought the rap about him not practicing emerged out of Houston when the Texans shipped him out in 2020 in a widely derided trade by Bill O’Brien.

💥 Derrick Henry was a huge draw.

“Derrick played a big factor in me coming here,” he said. “I always wanted to be part of the offense that had a great run game. I know that has my job and I know it's going to help his job. Having someone like me out there, I think obviously played with Arian Foster too.

“I played with some great running backs, but Derrick Henry is definitely by far one of the best running backs that I would be able to have a chance to play with and I think that not just help us but the team as well. So, Derrick Henry being here played a very big part of me coming here.”

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