HomeSportsGM: Cardinals Counting on ‘Exceptional’ Depth to Replace WR DeAndre Hopkins

GM: Cardinals Counting on ‘Exceptional’ Depth to Replace WR DeAndre Hopkins


Owner Michael Bidwell takes a photo with GM Steve Keim and former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson on December 13.

The Arizona Cardinals have a game plan for overcoming the injury to star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and it doesn’t include Larry Fitzgerald.

General manager Steve Keim weighed in on Hopkins’ injury and whether the Cardinals would consider bringing back the most popular player in franchise history to help fill the void.

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“I think Larry is probably at Pinehurst on the ninth green, enjoying his life with a Sarsaparilla,” Keim told Arizona Sports’ “Burns and Gambo” on Friday, December 17. “I think Larry’s content where he is and really happy with his career and how his life has gone [as part owner] with the Phoenix Suns.”

There’s been season-long speculation about Fitzgerald possibly returning at some point in 2021. The future Hall of Fame receiver stepped away from football without officially retiring, announcing in August that he didn’t “have the urge to play right now.”

Since then, Fitzgerald, 38, has given no indication that he’s had a change of heart.

“I think he’s really happy right now,” Keim said.

The Cardinals also are confident in their depth at receiver, he said, despite losing Hopkins for at least the remainder of the regular season.

“I think the depth that we have … is exceptional,” Keim said, specifically mentioning Christian Kirk and A.J. Green as players he expects to step up in Hopkins’ absence.

The Cardinals also have dangerous pass-catchers at other positions, including running backs James Conner and Chase Edmondsboth of whom are expected to play against the Lions on Sunday, December 19, in Detroit.

“It’s not just the receiver position. To me, you look at different spots, like Zach Ertz, who we added via trade,” Keim said. “You look at the two backs that we have. [They] are excellent catching the ball out of the backfield, as well as Eno [Benjamin] running the football.

“So [there’s] a lot of different weapons on this offense that I think can certainly pick up the load. It’s tough to lose a guy like Hop, but at the same time, I think that there’s a number of guys who can step up and perform at a high level.”

Keim also said he’s “hopeful [Hopkins] could potentially be back for the playoffs.”

“I would not rule it out,” he said.

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Christian Kirk: ‘Guys Have to Step Up’

The Cardinals have some experience finding ways to offset not having Hopkins in the lineup. He missed three games with a hamstring injury before tearing his MCL in the Cardinals’ 30-23 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, December 13.

With the missed games, Hopkins leads the team in receiving touchdowns (eight) and ranks third in receptions (42) and receiving yards (572). Statistically, Kirk has been the Cardinals’ top receiver in 2021, with team-highs of 53 catches and 718 yards. He also has four receiving TDs.

Green is close behind with 654 yards on 42 catches, and rookie Rondale Moore adds 426 yards on 51 receptions. Antoine Wesley also has seen role increase when Hopkins has been sidelined and has performed well when given the opportunity.

“That gives us a lot of comfort, as well as Kliff putting a game plan together to know how to use different players,” Keim said.

Kirk said losing Hopkins doesn’t change the way he approaches the game, but the “sense of urgency” increases.

“I think that you have to fill that void,” he told reporters. “Guys have to step up and make plays, and you have to fill in for his absence.”

Owner Surprises Team With Aircraft ‘Advantage’

The Cardinals will be traveling in style when they head to Detroit on Saturday, December 18.

Team owner Michael Bidwell surprised the team with the purchase of a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft on Friday, December 17.

“It is a major undertaking every time we travel for a game,” Bidwill said. “This aircraft will not only provide major convenience but also maximum comfort for our players when getting them to and from road games. Every NFL team is looking for advantages whenever possible, and we think this will certainly provide one.”

The aircraft features the Cardinals logo on the tail, with “Arizona Cardinals Football” on each side. It has a seating capacity of 288 — including 166 “oversize” seats and 28 first-class pods with seats that lie down, according to the team.

Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted his reaction:

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