TEMPE, Ariz. — For the Arizona Cardinals, receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are usually open down the field, even when they’re not.
The duo has combined to catch 135 passes for 1,791 yards and 15 touchdowns, with many of their biggest receptions coming with a defender either in the area or all over them.
At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, respectively, Fitzgerald and Floyd are built to win one-on-one battles with defensive backs. No matter how good the coverage may be, sometimes the smart play is to throw the ball their way.
“You’ve got Larry and you’ve got Michael, of course, they’re two big receivers,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “Just throw it up and give them a chance, see what happens.”
Or as Floyd put it, “Being who we are, we always think we can win jump balls and having a quarterback that can have faith in us and trust us is a big deal.”
The most recent example came in last Sunday’s 17-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Floyd only had one reception, but his 31-yard touchdown with 2:13 left in the game was the game-winner. Floyd “beat” Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell on the play, and Carson Palmer delivered a perfect pass.
“We saw that it was zero coverage and to me, he had faith in me to throw me the long ball, and we capitalized and scored a touchdown,” Floyd said.
Early in the season, the touchdowns weren’t coming as often as people would have liked. While people would point to Palmer as the problem, sometimes it was more about a receiver failing to do his job on the play and ensure the ball either landed in his hands or on the ground. Floyd said he “always” feels that responsibility, and it’s something Fitzgerald has felt for years with various quarterbacks.
“When he’s putting you in that situation, he’s expecting you to either catch that ball or break it up, making sure that we don’t get any turnovers,” Larry Fitzgerald said. “Obviously we love to make those type of plays.”
More of them happen when they’re run successfully.
“We haven’t thrown that many in the second half of the season because we weren’t winning the battle, but then we won some,” Arians said.
Those wins led to trust, and that trust has led to wins.
“These two guys have the ability to do that,” Palmer said. “That’s something that I haven’t played with — a guy that had that ability. Especially Mike. Mike has done a phenomenal job of making plays on the ball.”
What Palmer has had to learn with Floyd and Fitzgerald is not unlike what former Cardinal Kurt Warner had to back when he was under center for the team, and it’s something that takes time.
“It’s just a repetition thing,” Palmer said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well just throw him a jump ball;’ you have to throw a jump ball in the right place.
“That’s something that we’ll continue to get better at. I’ve got a decent feel for it. I’d like to get a lot more comfortable. The only way I’ll get more comfortable is more and more reps.”
As time has gone on, though, it appears Palmer has become more comfortable with and trusting of his wideouts, and in turn the Cardinals have had more big plays down the field.
Sometimes it happens when a receiver is wide open. Other times, the receiver is covered. But as it turns out, “covered” is not always exactly that.
“When you get one-on-one coverage, you always feel like you’re open,” Fitzgerald said.