GLENDALE, Ariz. – Already only a handful of days into Arizona Cardinals training camp, the receiver-versus-cornerback battles between Michael Floyd and Brandon Williams are becoming must-see at University of Phoenix Stadium.
On Sunday, with the pads on for the first time, the 6-foot-2 Floyd out-jumped Williams, who is listed at 6-feet tall, for a ball thrown by Carson Palmer in the back-left corner of the end zone. A few plays later, the rookie had his own moment, knocking down a slant pass intended for Floyd.
“(Williams) is good. He’s learning from one of the best,” Floyd said, referring to his all-pro teammate, Patrick Peterson.
This is Floyd’s fifth NFL training camp, all with the Cardinals, who made the former Notre Dame wideout the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
In the four seasons that have followed, Floyd has caught 209 passes for 3,293 yards and 19 touchdowns, playing 63 out of a possible 64 games. Only once, however, has he topped 1,000 yards, which he did his second year.
Questions remain whether or not Floyd can be a No. 1 option on a team.
“No, there’s no question in my mind,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “I just know that he can continue to get better. He still hasn’t reached his pinnacle yet, but he’s gotten better and better and better each year.”
The biggest knock on Floyd has been consistency: Can he make plays throughout the course of an entire season and not just flash his potential?
Last year, Floyd, who in training camp dislocated three fingers that required surgery to repair, had just eight catches for 104 yards in the first five weeks of the season only to close with five 100-yard receiving efforts over the final eight games.
“It’s just going out there and making plays. Coach said 50-50 balls, which I’ve been doing that all my life, so there’s really no big change to that,” he said. “But, it’s just nothing really changing, just going out there and making plays and making the majority of the plays that come my way and make something happen.”
More times than not, according to Palmer, Floyd is now winning the 50-50 matchups with defensive backs.
“Physically, the best thing he’s done is he’s really started to figure out his body and go up and catch the ball at the highest point. He just got so used to doing it being the 6-5 guy in college and high school, where he didn’t really need to really get to the highest point and go up and use both hands, that he could still kind of catch it with his body,” Palmer said. “He’s really made some strides in using his body, using his height to his advantage and out-jumping guys for the ball. It seemed like he did it every day in OTAs. I’m looking forward to seeing him do it and continue to grow in that area for camp.”
Palmer also noted Floyd’s maturity growth.
“Being a young guy coming out of a big school and not getting to play right away, I think, is a little bit humbling,” Palmer said. “He’s just so consistent. He never asks for the ball. He never says, ‘Oh, I was wide open.’ He’s so realistic in the way he plays the game. He doesn’t care if it’s ‘Smokey’ (John Brown) or Andre (Ellington) or J.J. (Nelson) or whoever gets the touches, he’s just a team player.”
The upcoming season is a big one for Floyd, who turns 27 in November. It’s a contract year. The Cardinals are paying him $7.3 million in salary after exercising the fifth-year option on his rookie deal a year ago.
“I’m going out there and making plays. That’s my job, that’s what I’ve got to do, that’s what my teammates expect of me and that’s what I expect of myself. The rest will take care of itself,” he said. “I think if you think about too much it messes with a lot of things, mentally. For me, I kind of not worry about it at all, for the most part, and just go out there and get my job done.”
That team-first approach is what Arians preaches.
With the lofty expectations placed on the 2016 Cardinals, not only will Floyd have to do his job, but so will all of the wide receivers. It’s the deepest position group offensively.
“We can be great,” Floyd said. “In our mind, we’re the best receiving corps in the league. I think that, and I think this year it will show.