HOUSTON -- Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins enters Week 15 on a roll, to say the least. Over his past seven games, Hopkins has 851 receiving yards and five touchdowns. That's 121.6 yards per game.
On the season, Hopkins has 88 catches (tied for second in the NFL) for 1,233 yards (second) and 11 touchdowns (first) for the Texans (4-9).
Hopkins will go face to face with the NFL's best cornerback duo Sunday at Jacksonville, though, against former Texans standout A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. In the first meeting with the Jaguars, in Week 1, Hopkins had seven catches on 16 targets for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars (9-4) lead the NFL in passing defense and have held opposing quarterbacks to an average of 174.2 passing yards per game. Bouye is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions and has broken up an additional 10 passes. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his combined 16 interceptions and pass breakups are the second most in the NFL, trailing only Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward.
In his second NFL season, Ramsey has four interceptions and 17 passes defended. The 2016 first-round pick has proved to be one of the league's elite defenders in a short period of time.
Hopkins said he loves the opportunity to go against top corners, saying Thursday that “it’s what I live for.”
“It’s always been a good matchup with Hop [Hopkins] and Jalen Ramsey,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “Jalen Ramsey’s a great player. Hop and Bouye, we’ve watched for several years in practice, so we know what that matchup is. That’s a tough and a good matchup, too. Hop has been up to those challenges all year. The No. 1 corner for every team covers Hop, if they’re that type of team, if they’re a match team.
“I think, obviously, when you look at what he’s done this year, he’s dealt with that pretty well. So it’s going to be another day like that for him. He’s going to have to step up to the challenge, and I know he’s looking forward to it.”
Hopkins was primarily covered by Ramsey in the two games he played against the Jaguars last season, and he was held to 13 catches for 135 yards. He did have a big catch on third down in the Texans’ Week 10 victory in Jacksonville to essentially clinch the game.
On Sunday, Hopkins will have T.J. Yates throwing to him with Tom Savage still in the concussion protocol. Hopkins has played two other stints with Yates, and has averaged 16.1 yards per catch with him at quarterback, the second-highest mark among the 10 signal-callers from whom he’s caught passes in his five NFL seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Yates is the third quarterback to throw Hopkins a pass in 2017, joining Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson. The standout receiver said he takes pride in his production despite the inconsistency under center.
“That’s why it’s a challenge for me to go out and be able to play with a quarterback who hasn’t played with us often, just to show the world that it doesn’t mean you need a Pro Bowl quarterback or you need a 100 percent-rated quarterback to get the job done at the wide receiver position," Hopkins said. "So, to me, it’s a challenge, and I love it.
“You see other guys, statistically, when their quarterback goes down, whatever they’re doing, their stats go down. I can’t be that guy, because I’ve had to play with multiple quarterbacks my whole career, so I know how to adjust on the fly.”
Yates, who was 14-of-26 for 175 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Savage in Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers, called Hopkins his “security blanket.”
“He’s one of the best receivers in the league,” Yates said. “He makes it easy on me. Obviously we’re going to try to give him the ball as much as possible, but we’re going against a tough defense that knows that, too, and they’ve got some great guys in the secondary.”
Added O'Brien: “It’s impressive. He’s had a great year. He’s so competitive for the ball. His route running, the way he plays on Sundays, he’s a very tough cover. Even when he’s doubled, we still throw him the ball. He’s come up with some huge plays for us, and it’s really good."