HOUSTON — Houston first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins is learning a lot from Andre Johnson, even if the star receiver doesn’t say very much to the rookie when the two are on the field.
Former Clemson star Hopkins gushed about his relationship with his new teammate Monday, saying the notoriously quiet Johnson sometimes simply gives him a look to let him know his performance isn’t up to par.
“He really doesn’t say too much to me, but he gives me that look sometimes when I do something wrong,” Hopkins said. “I kind of know I didn’t do my assignment. He just kind of gives me that look like: ‘You could have done better.’ ”
Hopkins feels bad when he gets that look from Johnson, and it spurs him to play better. As the longest tenured Texan, Johnson feels a responsibility to help bring along the young players and is looking forward to seeing how the new pieces help improve the offense.
“You get excited, not only just about rookies they bring in on offense, you get excited about just players they bring in period because you know that they can come out and help your team,” Johnson said. “I’m just anxious to get out there in the preseason game and see how it all unfolds, but you have to lay the groundwork first. That’s what’s most important right now, so that’s what we are trying to do.”
Hopkins has impressed the Texans so far at camp, making one-handed and otherwise acrobatic catches. While his gigantic hands, which require size 3XL gloves, are certainly large enough to snag the ball with one hand, Hopkins mostly reserves that skill for warm-ups before practice and the walk-throughs at the end of each session.
And fans are unlikely ever to see Hopkins attempt such a stunt in a game.
“I don’t think I’ll try to go out there and risk a one-handed catch,” Hopkins said. “I think I’ll always try and catch it securely in a game.”
Regardless of how he’s snagging passes for the Texans, they’re excited about his skills and hope he’ll master the offense soon enough to start opposite Johnson and take some pressure off the 32-year-old receiver this season.
Quarterback Matt Schaub is thrilled to have another big target in his offense and said Houston’s expectations for Hopkins are “through the roof.”
“He is going to get plenty of one-on-one coverage and chances to get the football,” Schaub said. “We’re going to get him a chance to make plays with it in his hands and he’s going to do that. Big, physical, fast receiver and I’m excited to watch him get through camp here, get toward the end and get in the preseason games to see what he can do against other guys.”
He caught 82 passes and set school records with 1,405 yards receiving and 18 touchdown receptions last year. His 24 catches of 20 yards or more last season were the most in the ACC. He averaged 17.1 yards a catch in 2012.
For his three-year career at Clemson, Hopkins had 206 receptions for 3,020 yards and 27 touchdowns, becoming the sixth player in ACC history with more than 3,000 yards receiving and the only player in conference history to gain that many yards in just three seasons.
Hopkins, taken 27th overall, is just the second receiver Houston has drafted in the first round and the first since Johnson was chosen third overall in 2003.
He said his only goal for this season is to help Houston win a Super Bowl, and he’ll work hard to help the team in whatever role he’s given. Though he has a singular goal, he does hope to secure a starting job. The Texans believe that he’ll be able to do that if he continues taking advantage of the tutelage and Johnson, who had a career-high 1,598 yards receiving last season.
“He’s a worker and he gets to sit next to No. 80 (Johnson) every day, so he’s learning from the right guy,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s got all the ability and he’s being trusted or pushed in a very quick direction, and that’s what we think is best for our team. We’re excited to watch him grow up here — big challenge, but I know he can do it.”