THOUSAND OAKS – Jalen Ramsey has been looking forward to this since March, when DeAndre Hopkins was traded from Houston to Arizona, bringing the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback and wide receiver back into the same division.
At the time, Ramsey responded to news about the trade by posting a hype video on Instagram with the caption, “Respect is mutual, but we have to get after it !!”
They’ll follow on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz., Ramsey and Hopkins who compete for the first time as members of the Rams (7-4) and Cardinals (6-5) after competing seven times while in the AFC South with the Jaguars and Texans.
“I like to play top receivers,” Ramsey said on Friday before practice. “That’s what I live for.”
Hopkins was more measured in his comments, “I look forward to going against him.”
There are a million reasons to think it is as good a match between receiver and cornerback as you will see. Hopkins, 28, signed a two-year contract extension on September 8 for $ 27.25 million a year, making him the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback. Ramsey, 26, signed a five-year extension the next day for $ 20 million a year, most of it for a defensive back.
Both earn their money. Hopkins is third in the league in receptions (77) and fourth in yards (967), on his way to 112 passes, a record for Larry Fitzgerald’s franchise. Ramsey has to pass on what Aaron Donald is for the pass rush, keeping the receivers he covered at 2.3 catches per game, the least for any cornerback with 10 or more starts and 24 yards per game.
This season, the Rams have dealt with five of the NFL’s 15 most prolific wide receivers. Since Ramsey is responsible for most of that coverage, they’ve kept four of those receivers below their average per game for goals, catches, and yards. The last and best case was three weeks ago when Ramsey limited Seattle’s JK Metcalf to two catches for 28 yards.
“We’ve seen Seattle, we’ve seen how it went. It’s absolutely fun to watch, fun to be there, ‘said Ram’s security John Johnson as he watched Ramsey hire a top receiver.
Hopkins knows all about it, except for the fun part.
Although the Texans defeated the Jaguars in five out of seven games, Ramsey won most of his duels with Hopkins, leaving him four feet below his career average, four flyouts and five catch rates.
“Those fights are always fun, whether I feel like I’ve won or lost the game,” said Ramsey. “I was traded (from Jacksonville to LA) last year, I came out of that division and I didn’t expect to play him for a while.
It seemed like he was following me. I follow him during the games, he follows me to the division. ”
The trade that sent Hopkins and a draft pick from Houston to Arizona in exchange for David Johnson’s backlash and two picks helped give the Cardinals a chance in the NFC West.
Hopkins and quarterback Kyler Murray connect on 74.8% of the passes. That includes the desperate, 43-yard swell that took the six-foot, 212-pound Hopkins away from three Buffalo defenders for a winning touchdown in Week 10.
“When Kyler needs a play, he feels confident in finding DeAndre,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury told LA writers.
The late game against Buffalo showed what the Rams are dealing with.
Johnson said of how to play Hopkins, “I think you just have to challenge him. He is a good 50-50 ball catcher, so you should definitely challenge him. ”
Johnson also sounded happy to leave that to Ramsey. Security said, “That is his job, that will be his duty. I think we all know that. ”
After playing less than 70% of the defensive snaps in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco for injuring a hip in warm-ups, Ramsey said on Friday that he is “all right.”
Ramsey will not treat Hopkins exclusively. Ramsey’s use in the broad “star” position gives him other responsibilities in some plays. The Rams will confuse it for not being predictable, meaning Darious Williams and Troy Hill will get Hopkins at times.
But Hopkins will largely be Ramsey’s responsibility in what he says is mostly a friendly rivalry.
“We have mutual respect,” Ramsey said. “We can be cool off the field. But when it’s time to play, when it’s time to strap on our chin straps and start playing for our team, neither of us will stop anything. We are going to compete at the highest level there is. That is respect for your opponent and at the same time respect for the game.
“We’re cool. But we won’t be on Sunday.”
The Rams declared outside linebacker Terrell Lewis out of Sunday’s game in Arizona, the second game in a row and the sixth overall that the rookie will have missed with knee problems. Sebastian Joseph-Day’s defensive tackle (hip) is questionable. …
Coach Sean McVay indicated that linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will be activated outside and will play on an injured reserve with an elbow sprain on Sunday after five games, and defensive end Derek Rivers is ready to make his Rams debut two weeks after being claimed on waivers . …
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald stayed on the COVID-19 list on Friday and seemed likely to miss a second game in a row. …
The Rams returned to Thousand Oaks on Friday to practice, a day after training at SoFi Stadium for the first time in the season to get out of the high winds. McVay was asked if he pressured Rams management to get an indoor-outdoor training facility. “Those are definitely conversations that I’ve had, but I also understand that the stadium has been delayed, all the different things with COVID, that kind of stall everything else,” he said. “(I) understand that we are at least a few more years away from being able to get those things done based on whatever needs to be done.”