At 32 years of age, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is certainly closer to the end of his NFL career than he is the beginning, but he’s far from cooked.
This, of course, hasn’t been a common refrain the past few years. After starting his career with six 1,000-yard receiving seasons through his first eight seasons in the league, Fitzgerald has since posted three straight seasons of less than a 1,000 yards receiving, leaving many to wonder if the Larry Fitzgerald of old was just that.
Perhaps it was all just a matter of quarterback play, as a healthy Carson Palmer has had a “turn-back-the-clock” effect on the 12-year pro, who has 23 catches for 333 yards and a league-leading five touchdown receptions through three games this season.
AZCardinals.com beat reporter Darren Urban subscribes to this theory, among others, as he joined Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday afternoon to discuss the Cardinals and Fitzgerald’s rejuvenated play.
“I do think it took him awhile to really accept what they were trying to do with him and I think it took him awhile to really learn what they wanted to do with him and what he needed to do,” Urban said. “But if you look back at the stats and you go back to right after Carson (Palmer) got back from his shoulder injury last year until the point when Palmer hurt his knee and Fitz ended up hurting his knee right after that, there was a stretch there of four, five or six games or whatever it was that Larry was putting up some numbers. They weren’t quite like this, but he was putting up numbers that extrapolated out, we’re talking about a 1,000-yard receiver again.”
Fitzgerald’s resurgence is more than just a happy turn of chance for a team that has its gaze fixed on a potential Super Bowl. For Urban, the momentum of Fitzgerald’s play of late has created not only a wave of excitement within the organization, but has had a broader impact amongst the Cardinals fan base.
“I thought Larry looked unbelievable in training camp, so that part doesn’t surprise me that it has carried over…Larry Fitzgerald, when he’s playing well — [because] he’s just so beloved in this town — that it means more if he’s got a 100-yard day than if it’s John Brown or Michael Floyd. It just does. Especially at home games when he’s making big plays, it creates an overwhelming, positive vibe, the fans want him to succeed — obviously Larry would like himself to succeed — and it just gives you a much more positive vibe. Not that it couldn’t be there if Larry’s numbers were down, but I think it does make a difference.”
With these being boom times for Fitz, someone has had to pay the price in terms of lack of production. That person has most notably been Michael Floyd, and perhaps with good reason. Sidelined for much of preseason camp with three dislocated fingers on his left hand, it has taken time for the fourth-year pro out of Notre Dame to establish himself as a productive weapon within the Cardinals offense this season. Through three games, Floyd has only two receptions for 30 yards.
“I think Michael will get more snaps and I think they’ll work him into a three receiver situaton with Fitz and John Brown, but this is the reality of the game itself, which is, if you’re the Cardinals or a fan saying, ‘why can’t Michael Floyd do more?’, you’re only going to have the ball so many times. You can’t say, ‘we want Fitz to have big numbers, and we’d love for Smokey Brown to be beating everyone deep, and we want Michael Floyd to be getting a bunch of catches, oh and by the way, we also want this running game to get enough reps where there has some sort of balanced offense.
“I do think there’s going to be times where Michael Floyd gets the ball, but I don’t think they’re all going to say, ‘hey, now that Michael’s healthy, we’ve got to make sure that we throw him the ball for five or six catches a game’ because I don’t think they’re going to give up what they already got. It’s working right now.”