New England Patriots: Can They Contain DeAndre Hopkins?


How can the New England Patriots slow down Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins this week?

When it comes to game planning for the Houston Texans offense, the conversation both begins and ends with star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has taken his game to another level this season. Heading into the Texans’ Week 14 match-up with the New England Patriots, Hopkins has 86 receptions for 1,169 yards and 10 touchdown. He is no lower than fourth among the NFL league-leaders in those receiving categories.

Simply put, Hopkins is one of the most dynamic players in the game, becoming arguably the most valuable offensive weapon in the entire NFL. Deep routes, intermediate or underneath, it simply does not matter, because Hopkins can do it all.

With his impressive combination of speed, size, raw athleticism and incredibly catching ability in any situation, Hopkins has become a true match-up nightmare for all NFL teams to worry about. He can beat you in many different ways, and is always good for a highlight reel catch or two per game.

If you don’t believe me, look no further than Hopkins’ incredible Week 11 performance against the New York Jets. Hopkins went for 118 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions, while being shadowed throughout the game by Darrelle Revis. The Jets gave Hopkins a ton of attention with one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and Hopkins was still able to make a huge difference.

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Simply put, the Patriots’ defense has their hands full with Hopkins this weekend. However, because of the Texans’ lack of legitimate options outside of Hopkins, the Patriots will be able to pay a lot of attention to the star receiver.

With Arian Foster out, the Texans’ running game led by Alfred Blue is less than stellar, and the Patriots should be able to contain the run without any extra attention. As far as the rest of the Texans’ receivers go, none of them should strike fear into the Patriots. Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts are decent, but the Patriots should be able to mostly contain them with man-to-man coverage.

Tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz deserve some attention, but it’s not like they are elite receiving tight end options. Simple tight end coverage by the linebackers and extra safeties the Patriots’ incorporate should take care of them just fine.

Bill Belichick always tries to take out the most dangerous player on the opposing offense. This week it is incredibly easy to see that Hopkins is that guy. Now, what can the Patriots really do to slow Hopkins down?

Well, it starts with Malcolm Butler. The undrafted free agent turned Super Bowl hero has become a shutdown corner in the making this season. He has not been perfect, but Butler shows great ball skills, impressive technique and a natural ability in coverage. He has had a lot of success this season, showing an incredible never-say-die attitude over and over again, against some of the best receivers in the NFL.

Athletically, Butler does not match-up well with Hopkins, but his toughness and natural coverage ability should allow him to hold his own, at least in tight spaces. Typically, the Patriots do not give Butler much help, allowing him to shadow his receiver one-on-one for most of the game. Against Hopkins, this cannot happen.

Butler is great, but with the Texans’ lack of other options, the Patriots would be foolish not to give him some help. At worst, we need to see safety Devin McCourty also shadowing Hopkins’ side of the field, giving Butler deep over-the-top help. Between Butler playing man-to-man on him and McCourty over-the-top, the Patriots would have at least a decent chance of not letting Hopkins destroy them with the big play.

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At minimum, the Patriots need to have that double coverage on Hopkins at all times, but honestly, I am not sure if that is even enough all of the time. On obvious passing downs, or big third and fourth down plays, I would like to see the Patriots showing Hopkins even more attention.

Let Logan Ryan and the other cornerbacks worry about Washington and the other receivers, allow the linebackers to take care of the tight ends and backs, rush four and triple covering Hopkins is the recipe for success.

Butler shadowing him man-to-man, McCourty in the deep zone and probably another safety in a middle of the field zone focusing on Hopkins. Not a straight triple-team, but man-to-man with two zones placed to take away Hopkins’ best routes.

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If the Patriots can take away Hopkins, I feel fairly certain that Brian Hoyer and the Texans’ offense will not be able to produce many points. Hopkins is an incredible talent who is extremely difficult to defend, but the Patriots need to do everything they can to slow him down.

Throw as many extra bodies at Hopkins as possible, and force the Texans to beat you with another player. This is the recipe for success for the New England Patriots against the Houston Texans this week.