According to NFL.com media analyst Bucky Brooks, Larry Fitzgerald is the current face of the Arizona Cardinals.
Fitzgerald, entering his 11th NFL season, all in Arizona, is tied with Darnell Dockett for the longest-tenured player on the roster. Fitzgerald is the team’s all-time leader in receptions (846), receiving yards (11,367) and touchdowns (87).
After ripping up the NFL with six 1,000-yard seasons in his first eight years in the league, Fitzgerald’s numbers fell off in 2012 when the Cardinals cycled through quarterbacks. The eight-time Pro Bowler improved last season with Carson Palmer under center, but still couldn’t crack the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year. Although the stats might suggest Fitzgerald’s game is on the decline, Cardinals officials remain convinced he is a No. 1 receiver with the skills to carry the passing game. Additionally, Fitzgerald is the consummate leader, displaying a tireless work ethic and setting a terrific example for his teammates. Given the Cardinals’ re-emergence as a playoff contender in the NFC, Fitzgerald’s leadership might be more valuable than his production at this point.
Brooks also thinks Patrick Peterson will be the team’s face of the franchise in the future. Peterson raised his local and national profile this offseason when he called out Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM by saying he is not a “shutdown corner.”
The Cardinals’ shutdown corner is pushing for recognition as the No. 1 cover corner in the NFL after snagging 12 picks during his first three seasons. Peterson exhibits tremendous ball skills and instincts, blanketing the opponent’s top receiver each week. In fact, Peterson’s exceptional athleticism prompted the team to use him as a designated playmaker on offense and in the return game to take advantage of his extraordinary running skills in the open field. Although the Cardinals plan to reduce his role as a gadget player in 2014, Peterson will continue to shadow the opponent’s top pass catcher, allowing the team to be more aggressive with its exotic blitz tactics. If Peterson can continue to thrive as the Cardinals’ defensive eraser, he could surpass Joe Haden, Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis as the top dog at the position.