The Arizona Cardinals receivers saw the addition of a new player to the group. On March 16th, the Cardinals traded running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick.
Changes on the Cardinals’ roster
A move that shocked the football world, the Cardinals added arguably one of the best wide receivers in the National Football League to their roster. While the Cardinals will always be Larry Fitzgerald’s team, the front office brought in the number one receiver they’ve needed throughout the past couple of seasons.
However, Arizona did sustain a loss during free agency, as their receiver, who earned the highest overall Offensive Share Metric, Damiere Byrd, signed with the New England Patriots. He had two decent games at the beginning of the season. Still, after missing some time with a hamstring injury and losing some snaps to rookie WR Andy Isabella, Byrd surged with some great games at the end of the season, giving a glimpse at his impact on the field.
Byrd earned a team-high OSM of 36.30, registering even higher than Hopkins. In his 46 targets during the 2019 season, he found an average separation of 3.2 yards, the fifth most among wide receivers. The sample size in Arizona is a bit small, but he was producing behavior on the field which lent to the offense’s success.
However, the group is arguably better at this moment with Hopkins, Fitzgerald, and third-year WR Christian Kirk, forming a solid trio for QB Kyler Murray. Let’s look deeper into why the Cardinals have vastly improved the passing game.
What makes the Arizona receivers better?
Let’s get the first thing out of the way: the addition of Hopkins is massive. While he did have the lowest OSM of the trio earning a 34.30 in 2019, Hopkins was one of four receivers with at least 100 reception and turned those into 1165 yards and seven touchdowns. He has consistently produced throughout his career and gives the Cardinals passing game more punch than it’s had the past five years.
2019 was the first time since the 2015 season that Arizona had two receivers with more than 600 yards. The Cardinals have not had two 1,000 yard receivers since 2015 when Fitzgerald and John Brown eclipsed that number with Michael Floyd having 849 yards.
The 2019 season also saw an improvement from Kirk, who earned an overall OSM score of 35.26 during his 2019 campaign. Kirk had one of the highest average separations in the league among receivers, finding 3.5 yards of space per target. He is crisp and agile in his route running, making quick movements and not losing speed on breaks and turns. He can also extend the field busting open big plays for the offense.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 7, 2018
That brings us around to the heart and soul of the team. Fitzgerald has remained a focal point the past five seasons as the bailout when things go wrong, find Fitz. Other than running backs, he has been far and away the most productive skill position on the offense for the Cardinals throughout his career and the past five years.
Fitzgerald leads the trio with the highest OSM score in 2019, earning 35.72, just a smidgen higher than Kirk. He’s been the go-to guy for so long, and the trade for Hopkins should finally lighten the load on his back. It seems the Cardinals are confident enough in the abilities of RB Kenyan Drake, who they acquired last season from the Dolphins, to send Johnson to the Texans. This was a risk worth taking. What harm can there be in loading up on more weapons to help Murray run the offense?
The addition of Hopkins takes a significant load off the backs of Kirk and Fitzgerald, possibly lending to another scenario like 2015 in having three receivers with more than 800 yards. While the offense did take a jump from being the worst in 2018 to okay in 2019, trading for one of the best receivers in the game should only help. But one thing is for sure, the state of the Arizona Cardinals receivers is the best it’s been in at least five years.