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DeAndre Hopkins gives Texans boost with more than just catches

HOUSTON -- Monday night’s matchup between Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was so physical, that Hopkins played part of the game with a jersey so ripped that his right shoulder pads were exposed.

Hopkins has been extremely effective this season with 69 catches for 1,004 yards and nine touchdowns, but he has also been able to help the Texans gain yards by consistently drawing defensive pass interference penalties. This season, Hopkins has had an NFL-high 10 DPI penalties for 149 yards called on his opponent, according to FootballOutsiders.com.

Three of those penalties for 50 yards came in Monday’s loss to the Ravens, when Hopkins also had seven catches for 125 yards on 10 targets. After the game, Hopkins said he was just as happy to force a DPI call, because it is just as effective as a catch in helping his team down the field.

“You know when you can take a shot down the field that there’s a chance that something good’s going to happen,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s either obviously going to catch the ball or maybe you can draw a penalty. Sometimes he’s had some OPI’s because he’s a battler.

“There’s a lot of battles at the top of the route and it’s good to have a guy that you know can do those things.”

A lot of Hopkins’ success comes from his physical play because he constantly is in tight coverage. It’s rare, O’Brien said, for defensive backs to be playing 10 yards off of Hopkins.

"He's not going to create a lot of separation as far as with his foot speed, but he'll come up running to you and push you off and go get that ball,” Indianapolis Colts safety Darius Butler said. “So, that's what he does."

While the Texans' passing game has struggled since rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL on Nov. 2, Hopkins has been a consistent target for Tom Savage.

“He’s a very, very tough player,” O’Brien said. “Very competitive, tough player. I’m not going to go down the road of why his jersey was ripped, but I’m sure you can watch the tape and figure it out on your own.

“Every route that he runs, virtually every route that he runs, is versus tight coverage. He’s just a very, very tough guy. He’s a very competitive guy. He wants the ball. He wants the ball on every play. Every pass play, he wants the ball and that’s what makes him who he is.”