In two career meetings with the Houston Texans, Brandon Carr lined up primarily against wide receiver Andre Johnson. But the Ravens cornerback did not need much of a primer on DeAndre Hopkins, the fifth-year player who has emerged as Houston’s go-to player on offense.
“I know he’s a basketball player [when he was in high school], and you can kind of see it in his game just off his releases,” Carr said. “He’s a savvy guy with his releases off the line of scrimmage and down the field. He’s pretty physical in and out of his breaks. So we’ll have to match his physicality, his hand placement, and go get the ball.”
Stopping the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Hopkins, who leads the NFL in touchdown catches (nine) and receptions leading to first downs (47) while ranking fourth in receiving yards (879), is easier said than done. He has amassed three 100-yard games this season, including a 224-yard effort against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 29, and has caught a touchdown in all but three games.
“If he isn’t the No. 1 receiver in the league, he’s pretty darn close to it,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Friday. “The guy can take the top off a defense speed-wise, he runs good routes, has got a great catch radius. He has a unique ability to body-position people up like on the back shoulder. Whether you want to call it a push-off or whether you don’t, he knows how to do it and it’s hard. He is just a phenomenal receiver. He’s a great athlete, but he’s a phenomenal receiver.”
Fortunately for the Ravens, they boast three cornerbacks in Carr, Jimmy Smith and rookie Marlon Humphrey who have helped anchor a defense that ranks second against the pass (185.2 yards allowed per game) and has a league-leading 16 interceptions.
“I’m pretty excited,” Humphrey said of the potential matchup. “You can only tell how good you are by going against some of the best guys, and this will be another one. We’ve got many more coming up, but this will be a good challenge for us.”
Carr said the key will be tracking where Hopkins lines up before the ball is snapped.
“He’s across the field, in different formations,” said Carr, who is tied with Smith for second on the team with three interceptions. “He lines up all over the place. So we have to keep a bead on him and communicate about where he is at all times.”
No complaints: In his first appearance since pulling his left hamstring against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10, Danny Woodhead lined up for only 13 of 59 snaps on offense at Green Bay. But the 5-8, 204-pound running back did not mind the limited workload, which included leading the team in catches (five) while amassing 21 yards.
“Whatever I’m supposed to go out and do, [I want to] try and win at whatever my matchup, whether it be blocking, running or receiving,” he said Friday. “I’m going out there trying to just win and just trying to focus on what I can do to help this team.”
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg acknowledged that he wanted to ease Woodhead back into play, saying, “We did not have a pitch count or anything like that, but I wanted to get him – and I thought he helped us certainly – going just a little bit. And virtually, the whole second half, it was a little bit more situational. So if it was more normal circumstances, he would have played a little bit more, yes, but not much more.”
End zone: With two sacks Sunday, linebacker Terrell Suggs broke into the NFL’s top 20 in career sacks, tying former Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice for 19th place with 122 sacks each. Suggs, who is already the franchise leader in sacks, said that moving into the top 20 was an honor, but he has his sights set on loftier goals. “It’s all in how you finish,” he said. “I said it before on Sunday. If you don’t get in [to the playoffs], it means nothing. Let us get in first, then we can talk about everything you want to. Let us get in.” … Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg declined to say whether he received an explanation from officials on a punt by Sam Koch that was ruled a touchback in the third quarter. “You’re setting me up here. You’re asking me an officials question,” Rosburg joked. “I’m sure John got an explanation. I let John do all the talking with the officials and afterwards. So I’ll just leave it at that. I thought it was an incredible play. Not only the punt but the guys that didn’t touch it were some incredibly athletic maneuvers not to hit it. I don’t know if they were all designed, but they were incredibly athletic. I mean, it was like ‘The Matrix’ thing going on there with guys going through the air. It was an incredible play, and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t come out in our favor.” … As part of Monday Night Football’s “Monday Night Lights” promotion, the Ravens welcomed one coach and one player from every high school football team in Baltimore City to Saturday’s practice. Several of the players ran routes and caught passes from quarterback Josh Woodrum.