In the aftermath of the TD-catch-that-wasn’t by Early Doucet — and it wasn’t a drop, in this case, because Doucet’s feet got tangled and he never got a chance to get his hands on the ball — the fourth-year wide receiver has been a popular topic of conversation this morning. Larry Fitzgerald Sr., a long-time writer and sports commentator in Minnesota, tweeted out that Doucet “bombed” this season and drops too many passes. (Mike Sando tracked Big Fitz down for a more detailed explanation). In Sando’s piece, Fitzgerald Sr. said that Doucet was invited to train with Larry Fitzgerald Jr. this offseason and didn’t come, and the elder Fitz wondered about Doucet’s work ethic.
That led former Cardinals and current Chiefs wide receiver Steve Breaston to tweet out, “Always found it funny if you ain’t working out at this place with such n such or in front of cameras you ain’t working hard….”
Here are the facts on Doucet: He has stayed healthy this season, a first. His statistics are far and away the best of his career — 53 catches, 682 yards, five touchdowns. The drops are harder to quantify — Stats Inc. has him with six, Sando said ESPN’s stat department has him with three — because that is frequently subjective. The one that sticks in my mind was the drop at the end of regulation against Dallas that cost the Cards a first down and put the defense in harm’s way. I don’t recall specifics otherwise, other than I remember they have happened.
But Doucet, as a third receiver behind Fitz Jr. and Andre Roberts, has become a key third-down target too. Both his grabs Saturday were first downs on third-down passes.
After the game, Doucet was down. But he decided to face the media when he could have left, understanding he had to take the heat. He didn’t hesitate in taking full blame, although if the offense hadn’t play so poorly as a whole most of the game, it might not have come down to that final throw.
“We’ve been through a lot this year — good and bad,” Doucet said. “We, as a team, have great character. We’re not going to let a situation like that stop us from playing hard and being a team. I had a bunch of guys come up to me on the sideline and tell me they believe in me, and that’s what you need. I’ve grown a lot through tough times, so I won’t let a situation like this bring me down. It was unfortunate, but you have to move on. It’s a part of life.”
Doucet will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. My guess is that he’ll have a chance to test the market, but I wouldn’t think the Cards are going to close the door on him returning. Generally, coaches have been happy with how Doucet has worked the last couple of years. He, like all the receivers, has been hurt by inconsistent quarterback play. Criticism is part of the business. I also wonder how Fitzgerald Jr. will handle it, because it seems inevitable he will be asked to weigh in on the subject.
UPDATE: Coach Ken Whisenhunt on Doucet Monday morning: “Early is a tremendous competitor and has fought back through things and I have tremendous respect for him … Early has made some big plays for us.”
Tags: Early Doucet
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