NFL.com's Brooks says the Texans might be better without DeAndre Hopkins. Is he right?

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com and NFL Network made some headlines when he said the Texans might actually be better without DeAndre Hopkins. He made the point that Deshaun Watson will now have to use all of his weapons and it will elevate his game. On the surface, it appeared to be a hot take.

But is he right?

Let's start with the obvious; the Texans made a bad deal when they traded Hopkins. They should have been able to at least get a first round pick. But what is done is done.

For Brooks to be right, a few things have to happen. Will Fuller needs to stay healthy, which has never happened. And Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks have to replace Hopkins' production.

Cooks had an off year last year, as did the Rams offense. He had 42 catches for 583 yards and two touchdowns. Cobb was better, with 55 for 828 yards and three touchdowns. So if you get 97 catches for 1411 yards and five touchdowns from the duo, would that be enough? Certainly more is expected of both, but let's assume last year is what they are.

Over the last three seasons, Hopkins' worst year was 96 receptions. That included 13, 11 and 7 touchdowns. His production has been incredible. He has also been ridiculously clutch. Sure, conceivably the new additions could have more production. But does that make the offense better?

Brooks makes some valid points. But the heart of the question remains. Are the Texans really better off?

The simple answer is no. If they had kept Hopkins and just added one of the two, the offense would still be better than it is now. If you buy the contract dispute stuff, then OK, a move was palatable, but only if you got a big return, which they did not. Having said that, they at least added two competent options.

The idea that Watson will have to expand his game is a fair point. He did force the ball to Hopkins at times. Brooks makes a well-reasoned argument, but that's if Watson doesn't also force the ball to Cooks, Cobb, Kenny Stills and possibly Fuller. The loss of a security blanket can not be overstated, either. Watson could count on Hopkins in the biggest moments. Will he be able to count on the new guys?

Hopkins did average a career-low 11.2 yards per catch last season, a number that has declined the past two years. But think of how many five-yard catches on third and four kept drives alive and led to points. How he often stepped up in the fourth quarter when he was needed most. It will be very difficult to replace that.

No, Brooks' take is not really all that hot. The Texans offense could be better if everyone stays healthy and has big seasons. That is a LOT of ifs. But if all that works out, it's possible Brooks will be right.

But not likely. The loss of Hopkins will produce more negatives than positives. But give Brooks credit for taking an unpopular stance and making a solid case.

It's just not enough to sell me.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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