Just days before the Cardinals are set to take on the New York Giants, receiver Anquan Boldin’s status to play is in doubt. He has a sprained ankle that may prevent him from playing in one of the Cards’ biggest games of the season. Normally, if Boldin was hurt and not playing I would be worried that the team would struggle, but as I sit here today, honestly, I’m not too concerned with whether or not #81 will be on the field Sunday night.
Instead, the receiver on the injury report that concerns me most is Steve Breaston, who was limited in practice this week because of a knee injury. Breaston, the third-year pro out of Michigan, is the team’s second-best receiver, and the offense struggles when he can’t play.
What?! Wait a minute Adam. If Larry Fitzgerald is the best receiver on the team, and Steve Breaston is the second best, are you saying that Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin is the team’s third receiver?
Yes, yes I am.
The idea first came about last season when, during Boldin’s absence after fracturing his jaw against the Jets, the team went 2-0 with wins over Dallas and Buffalo, and then in the playoffs the team destroyed the Panthers without Q in the lineup.
The feeling returned after the first week of the season when, without Breaston, the team’s offense struggled to do much of anything, only to return to its high-powered form a week later in Jacksonville with Breaston in the lineup.
Each game since then Breaston has proven to be a reliable receiver with good hands and excellent speed, while Boldin has struggled with drops, fumbles and injuries.
Sure, Boldin is tied for second on the team with 29 receptions, ahead of Breaston’s 23, but Boldin already has two fumbles (as many as everyone’s favorite fumble whipping boy Beanie Wells), the same number of touchdowns (1), and fewer yards total.
Basically, what the numbers show is that Anquan Boldin is not an impact receiver. He’s turned into a possession receiver, which is fine, except he wants to be paid like a number one receiver, which he just is not anymore.
Breaston, on the other hand, has established himself as one of the most important players on the team. Though he is not going to challenge Larry Fitzgerald as the team’s top receiver, he has entrenched himself as a big play threat who Kurt Warner trusts to catch anything thrown his way. Warner seems to trust Breaston in the same way he trusts Fitz, as would be evidenced by the ridiculous touchdown grab Breaston made last Sunday against Seattle, when at first glance I thought it was actually #11 making the catch between two defenders.
The fact of the matter is Anquan Boldin’s time as the team’s leader has passed, and his role as the team’s star appears to be fading as well. He wants a contract extension that he is not going to get, and if Larry Fitzgerald’s extension ruffled his feathers, just wait until he sees Breaston get a contract extension.
Even though it is difficult to admit, Boldin just does not carry the value that he used to. Instead of being a great player on a bad team, he is just another player on a good team, one the team does not need on the field to have success.