Hopkins studied Edelman's ability to move the chains

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Watch any Houston Texans game and one phrase gets repeated over and over: "First down catch, DeAndre Hopkins."

The receiver has generated 47 first downs on his 75 catches this season, tied for second-most in the NFL with Mike Evans -- only Michael Thomas has more.

Outside of his other-worldly hands and physical skillset, Hopkins' ability to move the sticks stems from his precise route-running. The wideout always makes himself available to Deshaun Watson in key moments.

To help improve in that area this offseason, Hopkins studied one of his favorite receivers: Julian Edelman.

"(He) always has a knack for getting the extra four or five yards," Hopkins said of the Patriots receiver, via ESPN's Sarah Barshop. "He's one of my favorite receivers in the NFL because of that. Because he keeps the chains moving."

Edelman is an interesting player for Hopkins to study. The Super Bowl MVP is a route technician, seemingly always open off the line of scrimmage. The mind-meld Edelman has with Tom Brady also allows the Pats to take advantage of defenses in key spots, even against potential double-teams. Combine Edelman's route running and ability to get open with ease, with the physical talent of a Hopkins, and you'd have a dynamite wideout (basically Michael Thomas).

Hopkins hasn't seen as many shots vertically this season. His 75.4 receiving yards per game through 10 tilts is his lowest since 2016, despite seeing more targets and receptions go his way than a year ago.

While fantasy footballers might get frustrated that Hopkins isn't soaring deep each week, the wideout views it as a positive for the Texans offense as a whole.

"I don't have to carry as much of a load as I used to, and I think that's a good thing," Hopkins said. "We can depend on other players. ... Obviously, it makes the team better."

Ahead of Thursday night's pivotal tilt against division rival Indianapolis Colts, which will determine the leader in the AFC South, Houston needs a big game from Hopkins against a Colts defense that has been uber stingy of late as it gets healthier.

Tune in tonight, and you'll be sure to hear the phrase: 'First-down catch, Hopkins,' many times.

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