Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Why DeAndre Hopkins is worth a big-money extension: Texans’ WR DeAndre Hopkins had expressed his displeasure of not receiving a contract extension after a Pro Bowl season where he gained 1590 yards and 11 touchdowns and graded as the sixth overall WR in 2015. He enters 2016 as Sam Monson’s fourth-best WR in the NFL, and it appears that Hopkins agrees, as he hasn’t reported for training camp, holding out for a contract extension.
The Texans have exercised their fifth-year player option on Hopkins, so they have him under contract for two more seasons, but Hopkins is using GM Rick Smith’s previous negotiations and his obvious talent and worth to the team as leverage. Smith also just received a contract extension through 2020 so Hopkins feels he needs to get paid now. The Texans’ previous two first round picks before Hopkins both received contract extensions before their fourth season, clearly something Hopkins is looking at.
Hopkins did something no NFL WR has ever done in the history of the league last season – he recorded a 100-yard receiving game from four different quarterbacks. That stat alone shows that Hopkins production isn’t limited because of who his quarterback is — something that even Antonio Brown, PFF’s No. 1 ranked WR, cannot claim. Brown saw his production take a big hit when Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury and Michael Vick and Landry Jones were throwing Brown passes.
The Texans brought in Brock Osweiler to be the franchise quarterback and give Hopkins a stable signal caller. He was given a monster contract despite playing half a season’s worth of average play. After seeing what Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, Brandon Weeden, and T.J. Yates did in 2015, head coach Bill O’Brian need to find his QB this past offseason and did just that. Now he needs to make sure his new quarterback has his team’s best offensive weapon in training camp to build chemistry and get on the same page.
Hopkins needs to get paid and get paid now if the Texans don’t want a distraction to linger into the middle of August and later. He deserves it and has shown that he doesn’t need a right set of circumstances to be productive. He is an imposing deep threat ranking fifth in the NFL on passes over 20 yards and ranked sixth in yards per route run, despite the shaky quarterback situation. If Hopkins and the Texans can’t agree on a contract extension soon and Hopkins continues to hold out closer to the start of the season, Osweiler’s progression will be hurt and their $72 million investment will weigh heavily on the franchise.
Arizona Cardinals’ rookie DL Robert Nkemdiche’s injury won’t hinder his progress: 2016 first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche will miss two weeks of training camp with a high ankle sprain. This is a setback for the former Mississippi Rebel but don’t expect this injury to disrupt him from starting the season opener in nickel packages for the Cardinals. A former five-star recruit out of high school, Nkemdiche has been in the spotlife his whole career with extremely high expectations.
An explosive athlete with one of the best first steps in the 2016 draft class, Nkemdiche graded in the top 10 in pass rushing but 47th in run defense. He was productive on a per-snap basis with an 8.7 pass rushing productivity mark that ranked seventh in the nation and actually improved to 9.2 when facing Power-5 competition.
New England’s offensive line takes another hit: The Patriots have had some terrible luck with their offensive line the past year and never can have five players set at any one time. The Patriots traded star pass-rusher Chandler Jones to the Cardinals for Jonathan Cooper to help stabilize the interior OL and provide depth. Unfortunately, lady (bad) luck strikes again and Cooper was carted off the practice field.
Cooper struggled in his first two seasons in Arizona and the Cardinals gave up on their first-round pick quickly by trading him. While Cooper gave up just one sack in 2015, he gave up 22 total pressures on just 332 pass blocking snaps with a pass blocking efficiency of 95.0 that ranked 62nd out of 82 eligible guards in the NFL. The question does remain on if the Cardinals gave up on him too quickly and if Bill Belichick can work his magic and turn Cooper into a quality guard and live up to the first round status. That may never materialize this season as it’s yet to be seen how long Cooper will be sidelined.