GLENDALE – In 2012, the Cardinals ranked 31st out of 32 teams in points per game (15.6) and 32nd out of 32 teams in yards per game (263.1).
It’s no wonder they finished 5-11.
The Indianapolis Colts, meanwhile, ended the season 11-5 thanks to an offense that was 18th in points per game (22.3) and 10th in yards per game (362.4), which included the seventh-best passing attack in the league.
Yes, the Colts did have Andrew Luck, but the man calling the plays for the can’t-miss kid and former No. 1 overall pick was none other than Bruce Arians.
He’s one of the reasons, if not thee reason, why Larry Fitzgerald is wearing a big grin as he enters his 10th NFL season.
“You put B.A.’s statistics up against any offensive coordinator in the last 10 years, I mean, it’s right up there at the top in terms of completions, touchdowns, plus-20 plays. All those type of things, he’s going to be able to do,” the pro bowl wide receiver said. “It’s not like we’ve got some guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows how to get footballs in his playmakers hands, win ball games and help his offense go and be successful.”
Prior to his season in Indianapolis, Arians, as the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, helped the Steelers win three AFC North Division titles, two AFC Championships and a very memorable Super Bowl XLIII.
“Obviously, he stuck a dagger in my heart in 2008, so I definitely remember him,” Fitzgerald said.
Arians is promising an offense that will air it out, not just once or twice a game but several times a game.
“Every single day our goal is to hit six-to-eight explosive plays,” Fitzgerald said. “I mean, every single day. If we don’t hit six-to-eight explosives, that wasn’t a good day for us offensively. I don’t feel like that there isn’t any reason why we shouldn’t be able to do that in the regular season. We’re going to practice on it every day. We’re going to continue to get better at it. We need to execute them when we get our opportunities.”
He had very few opportunities last year.
Despite making his seventh pro bowl, Fitzgerald put up some rather pedestrian numbers—by his standards, last season. His 71 catches were his fewest since 2006. His 798 receiving yards snapped a run of five straight 1,000-yard seasons. His four touchdowns established a career-low.
Now, with Arians on board, Fitzgerald, who turns 30 next month, believes not only he but the entire offense can return to an elite level.
“I kind of think he wants to make you feel uncomfortable to push you and get the best out of you, and I think that’s what he does,” said Fitzgerald, who is lining up at different spots including slot receiver under Arians’ offense. “Everybody is on edge or on your toes. You don’t know what to expect. There will be plays that he’s going off the script that you haven’t been prepared for, but he wants you to be thinking. He wants you to be studying. He wants you to be ready for anything that presents itself.”
While the offense remains “a work in progress,” according to Fitzgerald, he can see vast improvement only three days into camp
“I’m much further ahead than I was,” he said. “I feel much more comfortable, too. I line up and I can make fast decisions and go play like I want to play.”