Hines suffered a knee injury away from the team facility and is expected to miss the entire 2023 season, according to NFL Network.
Last year Hines gave the Bills one of their most memorable moments, returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown just six days after the Bills’ Monday night game in Cincinnati was canceled when Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field. Hines returned another kickoff for a touchdown later in that same game.
Hines was drafted by the Colts in 2018 and traded to the Bills last season. He didn’t play much on offense for the Bills but made a big impact on special teams, and the Bills were hoping he’d get more involved in the offense this year. Instead he won’t play at all this year.
Buffalo is moving on after losing starter Devin Singletary to free agency this offseason and has experienced depth at the position after signing free agents Damien Harris and Latavius Murray.
Hines, who is under contract through 2024, has five seasons of NFL experience and was acquired by Buffalo in a trade that sent backup running back Zack Moss to Indianapolis in November.
Though Hines had an extremely limited role in Buffalo’s offense to finish last season, he returned two kickoffs — from 96 and 101 yards — for touchdowns in the Bills’ regular season-ending 35-23 win over New England, which eliminated the Patriots from playoff contention. He became the first Bills player to return two kickoff for touchdowns in one game, and the first NFL player to do so since Leon Washington returned two for scores in 2010.
The Titans’ wide receiver group accounted for 1,595 of those yards, placing them 3oth in the NFL. To put that into perspective, Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson (1,809 yards) and Miami Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill (1,710) had more receiving yards than Tennessee’s entire group.
That number should improve this season with the addition of free agent wideout DeAndre Hopkins.
It was announced that Hopkins was expected to sign with the team July 16, and the deal was made official Monday.
Heading into his 11th year, Hopkins immediately becomes the most-tenured and accomplished receiver on the Titans. Since being drafted by the Houston Texans in 2013, Hopkins has had more receptions (853) than any other receiver, and his 11,298 receiving yards are the second-most over that span.
The Titans’ receivers collectively only finished with 100 or more yards receiving in two games last season. In nine games last season, Hopkins accomplished that feat twice as well as he amassed 64 receptions for 717 yards and three touchdowns.
The primary packages on passing downs for the Titans will consist of Burks and Hopkins on the outside with Philips in the slot and an explosive player in Chigoziem Okonkwo at tight end. New offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will be tasked with finding ways to get the ball to his playmakers.
“It’s a good challenge to have to try and find different ways to get them the ball and get them matched up in favorable matchups,” Kelly said. “Once we are able to figure that out, put them in that spot as many times as possible.”
Kelly was the Texans’ play caller in 2019, which was Hopkins’ last season with the team before he was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. He has shown a likeness for employing Hopkins as a slot receiver in the past.
Despite playing 110 fewer snaps, Hopkins saw an increase from 163 (15.8%) snaps in the slot to 278 snaps (30.2%) under Kelly in 2019, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That trend should continue in Tennessee where they expect the receivers to be versatile and move around the formation and line up in different places.
Perhaps no one benefits from adding Hopkins as much as quarterback Ryan Tannehill. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since Tannehill joined the Titans in 2019, he leads the league in both QBR and yards per attempt on play-action passes. Hopkins over that same span has recorded 99 catches off play-action (eighth-most), and that’s despite missing 16 games in that span.
Another area that Tannehill stands to gain with Hopkins is his pass-catching ability. Hopkins had only one drop on 95 targets last season.
Tennessee’s group of receivers was relatively unproven after the initial wave of free agency and the draft. And ESPN’s Mike Clay ranked the Titans as having the worst receiver group in the league.
That’s no longer the case. Titans general manager Ran Carthon played the long game and got a three-time All-Pro wideout in Hopkins just in time for the start of training camp.
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