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Hopkins leads the NFL in targets, with 29 through two games, two more than Dez Bryant, and more than 10 higher than the likes of A.J. Green (18), Michael Thomas (18), Amari Cooper (18) and Demaryius Thomas (16). Those 29 targets don’t even count the bevy of defensive penalties Hopkins’ has gotten called for his team.
“I think everyone in the league knows we’re going to throw the ball to Hopkins,” coach Bill O’Brien said, via ESPN.
Rookie Deshaun Watson has particularly leaned on his big-play receiver. Of Hopkins’ 29 targets, 24 have come since Watson took over in the second half of Week 1. The first-round quarterback has 13 completions to Hopkins on those 24 attempts for 121 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and an 82.1 passer rating. To all other targets, Watson is 14-of-23 passing for 106 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a 53.9 passer rating.
“I knew he was going to keep coming to me,” Hopkins said of the Watson’s mentality in the Week 2 win. “I know I’m a playmaker on this team, I know they’re going to call my number.
“[I’m] just trying to get open, because I know there are probably going to be at least four eyes on me, more than likely, so just trusting my quarterback to get me the ball, and trying to get open the best I can.”
The test for the Watson-Hopkins target factory will be ramped up this week. The Patriots have given up big plays this season, allowing 483.0 yards per game, including 350.0 passing yards per game, through two tilts. But Bill Belichick’s specialty is taking away what an opposing offense does best. What the Texans do best is get the ball to Hopkins.
How Belichick plans to nullify the go-to receiver will be one of the matchups to watch this Sunday. How much one-on-one will Stephon Gilmore see? Will the Pats trust Eric Rowe, Malcolm Butler or Jonathan Jones to jam Hopkins and play with a safety over the top in the former Logan Ryan-role?
And if New England succeeds in forcing Watson to look elsewhere, how will the rookie respond to having his security blanket yanked away in just his second start?
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