Why the Cardinals deserve a mulligan for the 2021 season

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) DeAndre Hopkins
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) DeAndre Hopkins /

The Arizona Cardinals finding a way to win 11 games despite Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, and J.J. Watt missing a bunch of time deserves more praise.

During the 2021 season, the Arizona Cardinals were 8-2 in the 10 games that All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins suited up for. In the seven matchups Hopkins missed, the Cardinals went 3-4.

Despite the fact that most realize the tremendous impact Hopkins has on Arizona‘s offense whenever he’s on the field, it hasn’t really been pointed out as a reason for their season coming to a close in the first round of the playoffs.

Others missed games for the Cardinals in 2021 like Kyler Murray and J.J. Watt, but the absence of Hopkins definitely had the biggest effect on the performance of the team.

Arizona Cardinals were doomed in 2021 after DeAndre Hopkins went down

It was no coincidence that Arizona was able to be much more successful with their top wide receiver on the field than when he was unavailable. The attention Hopkins draws from the opposing defense just opens things up for all of the Cardinals’ other playmakers on offense.

Just look at how different Murray‘s numbers were from the 2021 season with and without Hopkins on the field.

10 games with DeAndre Hopkins on the field:

  • 71.6 completion percentage
  • 278.2 passing yards per game
  • 8.7 yards per attempt
  • 19 touchdown passes
  • 9 interceptions
  • 106.0 passer rating

5 games without DeAndre Hopkins on the field (including playoffs):

  • 63.1 completion percentage
  • 228.4 passing yards per game
  • 5.6 yards per attempt
  • 5 touchdown passes
  • 3 interceptions
  • 81.2 passer rating

As one can see from the numbers, Murray was an entirely different quarterback when Hopkins wasn’t on the field during the 2021 season.

Most would agree that Hopkins is still one of the top wide receivers in the entire NFL. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to understand how much of an impact he truly has on a team until he’s unavailable.

With how significant the difference was between Murray’s performance with and without Hopkins on the field, the fact that Arizona was able to even win three games without their top receiver during the 2021 campaign should be looked at as more of an accomplishment.

For the 2021 season, the Cardinals should be able to use the excuse of not having Hopkins on the field for things not turning out the way that they were hoping.

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However, Arizona now has a full offseason to prepare for the veteran receiver to possibly miss time again in 2022. So if Hopkins is out for a handful of games next season, and the Cardinals struggle again without him, the same excuse can’t be used.