HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – Of all the players on the Texans roster DeAndre Hopkins has every right to be cautious on how to approach the offense this season. Despite being considered one of the top wideouts in the NFL, Hopkins is coming off what most would consider a down season from his previous three years in the league.

Much of that blame could fall onto the lap of exiled former starting quarterback Brock Osweiler, who struggled so profusely in 2016 that he was jettisoned after just one season in Houston. With Hopkins waiting patiently on a contract extension, having a solid season statistically will be extremely important if the Texans decide to take a wait and see approach before locking him into a long-term deal.

Hopkins, who has caught balls from nine different quarterbacks in his first four seasons, could be running routes for his 10th if rookie Deshaun Watson sees the field this season. Despite the constant quarterback turnover, Hopkins is as focused and even-keeled as ever and is supportive of both the incumbent starter Savage and the rookie from his alma-mater Watson.

With Savage, Hopkins looks to him as someone who has grown with him in the O’Brien offense as Hopkins was just coming into his own as a top receiver during Savage’s rookie year and O’Brien’s first with the Texans. Hopkins feels Savage has earned and is ready for the opportunity to start in 2017.

“I like his leadership,” Hopkins said on Wednesday. “From last year when he wasn’t playing on the field, he was still showing the guys, telling us what we should do, helping us out like he was the starting quarterback. Now that he’s in that role it’s not a surprise to anybody on this field that he deserves that role. He has earned it, not just from playing but from the chemistry he has built in the locker room with everybody.”

As for Watson, Hopkins knows there is still room for growth but has been impressed with his poise and work ethic in the few week he has been in a Texans uniform.

“He has picked it up well,” Hopkins said of Watson’s ability to learn the offense. “He’s been doing a lot of things, not just on the field but off the field as well. You’ll see him in there in his notebook. As soon as he gets in there he’s on his iPad looking at plays, trying to get better, trying to make his mistakes right. You can’t do that on the football field. You have to do that by off the field. Mentally, he has it.”

There’s been small indicators throughout mini-camp and OTA’s that O’Brien is going to test the rookie signal-caller sporadically as he’s been running through the same late-game situation drills the other two quarterbacks have. Hopkins knows that the real tests won’t be until the team heads to West Virginia for camp at the end of July.

“He’s a rookie. He hasn’t put on any pads yet,” Hopkins said. “What you go out there and do on that field, you got to prove it to me.”

Alex Del Barrio covers the Houston Texans for Sportsradio610.com and is the color commentator for the Houston Dynamo. He also hosts “ADB and Murph” with Matt Murphy which can be heard on Saturday afternoons 4-7 pm  Follow Alex Del Barrio on Twitter: @alexdelbarrio


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