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A tenuous schedule, and the captains

Posted by Darren Urban on September 3, 2014 – 9:34 am

The Wes Welker suspension bomb dropped yesterday, and that’s a great example of why all these game-by-game results guesses never made any sense to me. The Broncos wide receiver is gone for four games, and since the Broncos have a Week 4 bye (as do the Cardinals), the fourth and final game Welker will have to sit out will be the Cardinals’ visit to Denver. Will that impact the outcome? Maybe, maybe not. But you can’t predict because this game doesn’t allow that. Last year, when the schedule game out, the Cardinals were facing two tough playoff teams coming to Arizona in Houston and Atlanta. By the time the Texans and Falcons arrived, injuries had shredded them and they were bad teams. This year, the Broncos won’t have Welker (or kicker Matt Prater, who has also been suspended the first four games), the 49ers won’t have linebacker Aldon Smith in the first meeting with the Cards, and again, you just don’t know how these things will play out.

Random aside: That Oct. 5 game will be only the second time in Payton Manning’s career he will play an entire game against the Cardinals. He did so in a Sunday night game in 2009, but he sat out virtually all off the 2005 season finale. That is, of course, assuming Manning is healthy by that point. Because you just don’t know what will happen.

– The Cardinals picked captains and the results weren’t really surprising when you think of it. The biggest one, noted by many fans, is that Larry Fitzgerald is not a captain. This year’s offensive captain is Carson Palmer. But this should not shock. Palmer has really been the biggest offensive leader since he arrived, although there is something to be said about taking a bit of a backseat in the first year. Palmer did that, and Fitz was a 2013 captain. But Palmer is unquestionably the guy out front. Fitz has always been more of a lead-by-example guy. It was interesting that Calais Campbell is the defensive captain, but then again, maybe that shouldn’t be that surprising either. It’s hard to think of Campbell as a veteran leader — sometimes, it still feels like he just got here, especially since Darnell Dockett’s experience always overshadowed him on the line. But he’s a guy the defense can get behind.

– The Cardinals finished off their 10-man practice squad today by signing cornerback Anthony Gaitor. The 5-foot-10 Gaitor was among the Bucs’ final cuts. He was a seventh-round pick of Tampa in 2011, and missed all of last season with a knee injury. He joins rookie Jimmy Legree as the defensive backs on the practice squad, which gives the Cards some in-house possibilities for help if there are injuries with the eight men on the active roster.


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Fitzgerald: “My season hasn’t been that great”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 13, 2012 – 4:35 pm

It was Thursday, and those are the days Larry Fitzgerald talks to the media. Normally, a wide receiver with six catches over four games doesn’t draw a crowd, but given Fitz’s stature, it’s even more important these days to listen to what Fitzgerald has to say more than any other time because both the team’s season and his season have fallen way, way short of expectations.

And as usual, Fitzgerald handled the time well. He was asked what he thought about whether quarterback Kevin Kolb would return in 2013. “I would love to see everybody come back, but that’s not my decision,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s for management to take care of. Hopefully I can come back next year. Hopefully they bring me back. My season hasn’t been that great.”

It provided a chuckle, even if it was true. Fitz has dropped a few passes this season that in past years he seemed to come up with. But as has been chronicled many times, his numbers — 57 receptions, 652 yards, four touchdowns — aren’t reflective of his ability as much as the struggles at quarterback. Every week, Fitz compiles the plays of the top receivers in the league, guys like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Houston’s Andre Johnson, New England’s Wes Welker, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, Tampa’s Vincent Jackson and Atlanta’s Roddy White among them, and studies their work. He tries to pick up tips, but he can’t steal the throws they are getting from their QBs, and his numbers will fall far short of those other elite receivers.

“When we didn’t have a starting quarterback, in a season when I caught TD passes with five quarterbacks – that’s crazy,” Calvin Johnson told detroitlions.com. “He’s in a situation where they don’t have a steady quarterback situation. You don’t have a chance to get the ball.”

Fitz isn’t going to complain. He knows it makes no difference. Besides, he can let others (like Calvin Johnson did) do it for him. It’s not rocket science to analyze his frustration. But he also wants to power through the end of the season and set a good example.

“Certain days I am up, certain days I am down. I’m human,” Fitzgerald said. “I try my best to be a professional every day, come to work and give it my best. It’d be easy to hang your head and be disappointed but as a teammate you can’t do that to your teammates. You have to keep practicing and working hard and trying to improve. That’s my mindset. I never feel sorry for myself.”

FitzSeasonBlogUSE


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As Fitz is declared top 10 (seventh, actually)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2012 – 3:24 pm

The NFL Network’s summer tour of the top 100 players — as chosen by a vote of players — wraps up tonight. Somewhere in the final 10, Larry Fitzgerald will have his named called.

(The show airs at 5 p.m. Arizona time. And I am sure we will have Fitz’s segment available on the site soon after. … And here it is.)

Last year, Fitz was No. 14. Where will he be in a couple of hours? Don’t know. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis remain. I will be interested where Fitz is in relation to Johnson. Something tells me that could get the fans riled up. I already know — since I watched it unfold on Twitter — that people aren’t thrilled Calais Campbell/Adrian Wilson/Darnell Dockett didn’t make the list. Only Patrick Peterson will join Fitz.

Is Campbell or one of the others one of the current 100 best players in the league? An argument can be made, sure. I don’t know how many players participated in the voting, but someone came up with this list. (I mean, is Eli Manning really only the 31st best player? Worse than James Harrison? Or Wes Welker? Um, no.) This is about talking about the NFL in the deadest time of the NFL calendar, however. Don’t ever forget that. Lists are popular to make because they generate such conversation. And we are certainly talking about it, right?

UPDATE: Fitz was seventh. Calvin Johnson was third, behind Rodgers and Brees. Said Fitz on Twitter, “Honored 2 b voted a top 10 player by my peers. Congrats 2 all others. I will continue striving 4 perfection. 6 spots 2 go. #FaithFocusFinish

UPDATE, THE SEQUEL: Fitz had an even longer — and poignant — response on Facebook:

“Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement.

“I’ve completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal.

“Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players.

“My sincere hope is that we can get back to the playoffs on a regular basis and become Super Bowl Champions.

“Our team was 2minutes away from that goal on February 4, 2009, and similarly, my 7th rank of NFL top players leaves room for improvement.

“I will strive as always to expand my role and contributions to team success, be as productive as possible,and win a Championship…..”


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One drop too many

Posted by Darren Urban on January 4, 2012 – 4:58 pm

It started with a Tweet, as so many things do these days.

Over at ESPN, Mike Sando noted Larry Fitzgerald had just one drop this season, the lowest total (easily) among the four players (Roddy White, Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson) targeted at least 150 times. Fitz answered back that that was “One too many.” There was only one really obvious drop for Fitz this season, so obvious coach Ken Whisenhunt even called him out for it after the Minnesota game, during the Cards’ dark, dark days of this season.

My access is to Stats, Inc., not ESPN. Stats has Fitzgerald with two drops (which doesn’t shock me; while the Vikings’ one I remember, there were a couple others I remember thinking they could be Fitz drops at the time) among his 154 targets. By way of comparison, Stats has Andre Roberts with 98 targets and four drops, and Early Doucet with 97 targets and six drops.

(Drops, of course, are judgment calls.)

For further comparison, it’s Fitz with those high-volume counterparts, and whether it was one or two, Fitz comes out looking good. Stats lists Welker with five drops in 173 targets, Johnson with six and 158 targets, and White with a stunning 15 drops on 180 targets (and remember, targets are just looking in a guy’s direction; it doesn’t mean it was anywhere near catchable. Stats judged 37 passes that came Fitz’s way this season as a “poor throw.” Three targets were intentionally thrown away, and 25 were either defended or knocked down at the line. )

Drops have never really been a Fitz issue, however. He even had a “perfect” season according to Stats: 2007, and he still had 100 receptions. Fitz’s year-by-year drops:

  • 2011: 2 (80 catches)
  • 2010: 4 (90)
  • 2009: 2 (97)
  • 2008: 2 (96)
  • 2007: 0 (100)
  • 2006: 5 (69)
  • 2005: 1 (103)
  • 2004: 2 (58)

Funny that his two most prolific reception seasons are his lowest drop years too.

P.S. I will be hosting a live chat tomorrow (Thursday) at 12:30 p.m. Arizona time to talk about all things offseason. And in-season. Whatever you want. Click here to join.


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