Thursday Night Football: DeAndre Hopkins returns, and maybe he can save the Cardinals

As the Arizona Cardinals offense flails around this season, you have probably heard a time or 50 that Kyler Murray needs DeAndre Hopkins back.

It's a suspect excuse for a $230 million quarterback, but we'll start to find out on Thursday night if it was true.

Hopkins is back. He returns from a six-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. He'll make his season debut against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night in a game that will be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

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Hopkins is an exceptional talent. He's a three-time All-Pro and was on a possible Hall of Fame track (the suspension won't help him). But can he save a Cardinals offense that looks broken?

DeAndre Hopkins returns to Cardinals offense

Murray is the first to say that Hopkins alone isn't changing everything.

This week Murray praised Hopkins and the energy he brings but warned, "it's not a miracle (cure) that everything is gone. We still have things we have to get better at, still things we need to fix."

The Cardinals are coming off a 19-9 loss in which the Seattle Seahawks held Arizona's offense to a single field goal. They have failed to pass 17 points in three of six games. The passing game in particular has been quite average. The Cardinals are 16th in the NFL in passing yards and have just six passing touchdowns in six games.

The defense hasn't been great either, but they don't have a $230 million player on that side of the ball. The offense has to be better if they're going to break out of the 2-4 start to this season.

One problem is Hopkins' return coincides with receiver Marquise Brown's departure. Brown, who was off to a hot start this season, will miss multiple weeks with a foot injury. The Cardinals traded for Robbie Anderson after his sideline blowup in the Carolina Panthers' last game, but Anderson hasn't been much of a factor in either of the past two seasons.

Mostly, the offense is either going to get much better because Hopkins changes it, or it's not going to get better at all this season.

Hopkins didn't post big numbers last season

Hopkins himself is a bit of a question as he starts his season.

His numbers were down last season. He averaged 57.2 yards per game, the fewest since his rookie year. He didn't have one 100-yard game. He has posted 96 receptions or more five times in his career, but was on pace for 71 over 17 games before an injury ended his season. It's a bit of a concern considering he's 30 years old now. Also, he's coming off a long suspension.

Hopkins says his impact on the offense last season was still strong despite the numbers.

"Last year was a great example of that and me not having a game over 100 yards, a lot of people saw it of me having a down year," Hopkins said, via the Cardinals' official site. "I look at it as a productive year because I got a lot of guys open. There are a lot of things that go into a football game more than just fantasy stats or yards."

Hopkins could catch a break this week. The Saints' top cornerback Marshon Lattimore missed last week with an abdominal injury and he could be out this week too. Without Lattimore last week, the Saints allowed Cincinnati Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase to go off for 132 yards. New Orleans has multiple injuries, including receivers Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry, but still led the Bengals until the final two minutes of the game. A 60-yard touchdown by Chase got Cincinnati the win.

The Cardinals need something to change, and soon. If Hopkins doesn't transform the offense, it could end up being a long season in Arizona.