Although Larry Fitzgerald may have gained scores of new, young fans with his fun-loving appearance at the 2014 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards, a pair of NFL.com writers think the Arizona Cardinals star receiver is poised for a drop-off in 2014.
Writers Gregg Rosenthal and Dan Hanzus recently wrote a collective piece on eight NFL players they think will drop in production in the upcoming season, and unfortunately, Fitzgerald was mentioned among the regression candidates.
Fitzgerald’s age, 30, and the emergence of another Cardinals wideout have a lot to do with why the writers think the 10-year veteran will backslide in 2014.
There was a time when Fitzgerald was the greatest wide receiver on the planet. Who could forget the 2008 postseason, when Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner nearly willed the Arizona Cardinals to a Super Bowl title? Fitzgerald is no longer the same dominant playmaker, and the emergence of Michael Floyd threatens to relegate Fitzgerald to second banana status.
Despite the knock on the Cardinals star, Hanzus predicts that Fitzgerald will age gracefully and learn to embrace his eventual role as the team’s No. 2 option in the passing game.
On the plus side, Fitzgerald has the potential to be football’s tastiest second banana. The best-case scenario has Fitzgerald’s post-age 30 career evoking comparisons to Reggie Wayne, who adapted to his game with age and found extended success playing under — wait for it — Bruce Arians. This is a time of transition for Fitzgerald, and his numbers may reflect that.
The Pittsburgh product’s numbers were actually better in 2013 than they were a season prior (82 receptions for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to 71 catches for 798 yards and four TDs), but yes, he hasn’t reached the 1,000-yard plateau in a campaign since 2011.
The eight-time Pro Bowler returns to the Cardinals with all the right elements in place for him to excel in 2014. Carson Palmer returns under center, Andre Ellington is a year older and should take pressure off the passing attack, and of course Floyd will occupy the other starting wideout spot and is a big enough threat that teams can’t double-team Fitzgerald every play. The 24-year-old Floyd caught 65 passes for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns in 2013 — a big jump from his 45 catches, 562 yards and two TDs in his rookie season.
The other regression candidates mentioned in Rosenthal and Hanzus’ piece are Wes Welker, Fred Jackson, Antonio Gates, Cam Newton, DeMarcus Ware, Knowshon Moreno and Arian Foster.