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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Framber Valdez injured his ring finger on Tuesday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

That sure escalated quickly. The news on Framber Valdez went from bad to vastly worse for the Astros with the fractured ring finger on his pitching hand concerning enough that season ending surgery is on the radar. Valdez is/was no sure thing to have been a first time quality full season starting pitcher, but seemed a decent bet after his maturity-driven albeit short season breakout 2020.

37-year-old Zack Greinke is the only member of the Astros' starting rotation to have thrown even 130 innings in a big league season. Greinke showed notable slippage in 2020. A by-product of the funky short season, or Father Time making a move? If Greinke further erodes, uh oh. It's all question marks behind him.

Lance McCullers got to the big leagues in 2015. Six years later McCullers has zero seasons under his belt in which he both pitched well and stayed healthy. If he hits that exacta in 2021 it's great for the Astros of course, greater for McCullers with free agency arriving at season's end. Particularly confounding with McCullers is that over his career he's been outstanding at Minute Maid Park, and basically sucked on the road. Career earned run average at MMP: 2.51. Career ERA everywhere else: 4.99. That's absurd. It's certainly not as if MMP is some great pitchers' park.

"Crafty" is typically applied to left-handed pitchers. Jose Urquidy seems a crafty right-hander. But since missing the 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery Urquidy has topped 100 innings worked once. Cristian Javier has some electric stuff and showed very well as a rookie. Javier has never thrown 115 innings in a professional season.

The odds are long against McCullers, Urquidy, and Javier all pitching well and staying healthy all season. Valdez didn't come close to making it to Opening Day. The best internal candidates to replace Framber (or anyone else) are Luis Garcia and the extremely-hyped thus far dud but still just 23 years old Forrest Whitley.

Woeful Rockets

It certainly isn't paying homage to James Harden that has the Rockets on a 13 game losing streak as they mercifully take their All-Star break. They're just that bad. Watching them is like watching a helpless fly tossed into a spider web game after game. Out of the break the Rockets play at Sacramento Thursday. The Kings are no good, but the Rockets are worse. A loss there all but guarantees matching the Houston Rockets' longest ever losing streak of 15 since the following night they play at Utah. If you care about them the Rockets are painful to watch. Hapless, helpless, hopeless. Their best shot at accelerating what might be a years long path back to relevance is to keep on stinking. The Rockets have the third worst record in the NBA. The three worst teams have equal chances at getting picks one through four in the draft. It's a 14 percent shot at number one, a 52 percent shot of being in the top four. The fourth worst team has a 48 percent chance of picking in the top four. If the Rockets are not in the top four, they lose their pick to Oklahoma City as a payoff of the awful Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade.

Watt signs with Cardinals

J.J. Watt could have least acknowledged "Of course the money the Cardinals offered had plenty to do with me picking them!" Off an 8-8 season in which they faded down the stretch the Cards have an interesting squad with some serious upside, especially if Kyler Murray makes a leap in his third season at quarterback. But no way are the Cardinals presently a first tier Super Bowl contender. We don't know for certain who Watt's other "finalists" were and what they offered. Seems a lock that none of them offered 23 million dollars guaranteed or two years 31 million total. Money is another scoreboard and J.J. is a huge winner on it. No one should ever blame a player for going for every dollar he can get. But Watt can't honestly say the best shot at a Super Bowl was his top priority then sign with a team which last had a winning season in 2015 and in Kliff Kingsbury has a guy who has accomplished nothing meaningful as a Head Coach at either Texas Tech or Arizona. Doesn't mean it can't happen in the desert, but there had to be better teams interested if a ring shot was of paramount importance.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Les Miles, what a slimeball. LSU, what a slimy institution in its handling of serial sexual misconduct in its football program

2. NBA All-Star Game Sunday. In 1993 more than 22 million people watched. Last year, 6.8 million. Not sure 5 mil watch Sunday.

3. Greatest ever NFL free agent signings: Bronze-Packers, Reggie White Silver-Buccaneers, Tom Brady Gold-Saints, Drew Brees

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome