It’s hard not to notice, when you jump on the Cardinals’ stat page to see where Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers are and then the disparity with the rest of the receiving corps — a group that once again was expected to be a strength but like 2016, has not been. With two games left in the regular season, it is still the departed Andre Ellington (who was cut five games ago) second on the team with 33 catches. Fitzgerald’s 92 receptions is nine more catches than all the other wide receivers this season combined.
If David Johnson had been healthy all season, you’d expect a running back to be high on the receptions list, just like last year. But Johnson didn’t even make it through a game, and once he went down, the pressure went to the receivers to make up for it in the passing game. There are factors involved here — the pass protection has not been consistent, especially with all the injuries on the offensive line. Starting quarterback Carson Palmer only played half the season. But it’s clear that receiver — after only the QB spot and offensive line — will be a position of focus for General Manager Steve Keim this offseason.
Even if Fitzgerald comes back to play another season (which he has not said he will for sure yet), the Cardinals need to address wide receiver. John Brown and Jaron Brown will be unrestricted free agents. J.J. Nelson, who started strong and then struggled through inconsistency catching the ball, will be back. Chad Williams enters an important offseason after a nondescript rookie year. Brittan Golden, who is more important on special teams, has to heal from a broken arm and is also a free-agent-to-be.
After 2015, when the receiving unit was excellent and looked like it would be for a few years, the group hasn’t been the same. Losing Michael Floyd and having John Brown’s production fall off so precipitously has been a killer. Again, other spots will get more attention on offense. The quarterback thing has reached a critical point, and the long-term offensive line has to be found. But wide receiver will also be in the spotlight.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Carson Palmer, Chad Williams, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Steve Keim
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As Larry Fitzgerald spoke on a variety of topics Tuesday, rookie third-round wide receiver Chad Williams came up. And Fitz delivered the eyebrow-raising comparison — kind of.
“He reminds me of Anquan Boldin, in terms of the strength of his hands,” Fitzgerald said. “Once it touches his hands, it just doesn’t move. He’s got unbelievably strong hands.”
Now, invoking the name of Anquan is pretty high praise around these parts. It’s never taken lightly, even if Fitz narrowed it to Williams’ hands. Boldin and Williams aren’t built the same, Boldin being thicker than Williams, but certainly, this franchise would take Williams being anywhere close to Boldin. After all, Boldin has carved out a marvelous NFL career, and it’s impossible to forget his best seasons came in an Arizona uniform.
(Before we go any further, Boldin has said he wants to play in 2017. But it won’t be with the Cardinals, even though many fans would love a reunion. As I have mentioned before. Boldin and Fitzgerald play essentially the same position at this point in their careers. Having them both on the roster makes little sense.)
It’s not the first time Fitzgerald has brought up a Boldin comparison with a young Cardinals wideout. A couple of times Fitzgerald made the Anquan-Michael Floyd comparison, in terms of those players playing “angry” — in a good way. Chad Williams has a long, long way to go to prove himself anywhere Anquan-worthy, especially since his opportunities are going to be much more limited as a rookie that Boldin had in 2003. (No one is forgetting 10-217-2 to start his career.)
Q hands or not, though, Fitzgerald says he’s bullish on the rookie Williams.
“(Chad) has got deceptive speed, when he’s running with guys, you see him and you’re like, ‘He’s really moving,’ ” Fitzgerald said. “He’s making his plays. … He’s going to be a great help to us. He’s a very outgoing young man, has a high football IQ, which always helps.”
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Chad Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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A year ago, the Cardinals had no better unit that their wide receiver corps. Larry Fitzgerald had an excellent season. Smokey Brown was a 1,000-yard pass catcher. Michael Floyd piled up 100-yard games down the stretch. J.J. Nelson was a big-play rookie, and even Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden had proven to have moments.
It’s different now. Fitz was still excellent in 2016. But Smokey got sick, and Floyd all but disappeared before being released. Nelson came on, but Jaron Brown got hurt. Questions at the position swirl, both for 2017 and the future given Fitz’s vague countdown to retirement sooner rather than later. That’s the backdrop the Cardinals have going into both free agency later this week, and into next month’s draft.
“It’s an interesting deal when you look at your depth chart every year and you think that’s really one of your strengths,” General Manager Steve Keim said of the arc of his wide receivers from season to season. “It always teaches you a lesson that you can never have enough good football players at one position because injuries, different things that can occur during a season (that) depleted the wide receiver corps this year.
“It goes back to show you, you may have a guy who is fourth or fifth on the depth chart, but you have to be comfortable when you head into the season that ‘I may be playing with this guy.’ Not only from a mental aspect but you have to feel he can get the job done physically as well.”
Coach Bruce Arians likes getting the smaller, fast wide receivers in the later rounds. But post-Fitz the Cards figure to need a bigger receiver. Maybe they seek someone in free agency, but if everyone is healthy, the Cards could conceivably roll this season with this corps intact. If someone pops up in the draft, you can think about that move.
Tags: Brittan Golden, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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When the Cardinals released Michael Floyd in December, he was quickly claimed by the Patriots off waivers. It was noted by more than a few Floyd could end up benefiting greatly by making it too the Super Bowl. The Patriots, of course, are playing in the Super Bowl today. Floyd is in uniform — but only for warmups. Floyd is inactive for the game — Bill Belichick allowed all players to dress for warmups, even those inactive, just to allow them that experience.
Floyd didn’t play in the AFC Championship game either after being named inactive. He struggled in the lone playoff game he was in. Top Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss said it was a numbers game that kept Floyd from playing in the Super Bowl. He also said Floyd would like to re-sign with New England and that the Patriots have interest. We will see if that comes to pass — and also what market develops for Floyd after his rocky 2016 season.
UPDATE: But because Tom Brady is Tom Brady, Floyd did get a Super Bowl ring.
Tags: Michael Floyd, Patriots, Super Bowl
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So Larry Fitzgerald is coming back, a boon to the Cardinals — at least for 2017. After moving on from Michael Floyd (which was probable as 2016 moved on and Floyd heading into free agency, regardless of his off-field issues), the Cards needed a Fitz anchor at wide receiver. But for the long-term, does it change a lot? The Cardinals still need to consider a big receiver in the draft, I’d think, a guy who can help fill the Fitz void when that comes sooner rather than later (and the way this all has gone, it feels like Fitzgerald is going to want to hang it up after 2017.)
Again, the biggest question after Fitzgerald when it comes to wide receiver is the ability for Smokey Brown to return to form. If Brown is able to play next season like he did for most of 2015 (Brown did battle hamstring issues that year and it might have been the sickle cell issue), the Cardinals should be fine. J.J. Nelson was emerging the last part of the season. Again, there probably needs to be a long-term “big” receiver plan post-Fitz, but it’s not crucial. The return of Fitz does ease the pressure — and eliminates a potential hole — that could have forced something different at the 13th overall pick. Then again, if Clemson’s Mike Williams is still on the board …
(Besides, good passing games come down to the quarterback often. If Carson Palmer retires along with Fitz, the Cards’ QB situation will be priority 1, 2 and 3. And probably 4 and 5.)
No, you don’t forget running back David Johnson either. He’ll play a huge role in the passing game again, I am sure. But again, if Brown and Jaron Brown (torn ACL) can come back healthy, along with Fitz and Nelson, the Cardinals’ receiving corps should be fine for this season.
Tags: Carson Palmer, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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The Cardinals actually won the first game played (that counted) at what is now CenturyLink Field.
It was 2002, and Thomas Jones had his best game as a Card and even though Jake Plummer couldn’t do much, the Cards knocked off the Seahawks, 24-13, the second week of the regular season. The building was simply a new building back then, certainly not the intimidating factor it has grown to be (although, as with most places, the stadium is intimidating when the team playing there is good. If the team playing there isn’t as good, not so much.)
The Cards with Carson Palmer have been good there. Two Palmer starts, two Cardinals wins. When the Cardinals lost in 2014, Palmer was injured and Drew Stanton was behind center. Palmer will be there Saturday, but the team around him is beat up and broken down. It’s not how the Cardinals wanted this matchup to be, especially with the Seahawks in mostly better shape than the first time these teams met this season. But the NFC West has been determined, the Cards are out of the playoffs and all there is for the Cardinals to spoil Seattle’s hopes for that No. 2 seed. Which isn’t nothing, but this game was supposed to be about so much more.
— Well, offensive line of John Wetzel, Mike Iupati, A.Q. Shipley, Taylor Boggs and Earl Watford, welcome to Seattle. They held up OK against the Saints, but, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, this is a different animal, no?
“This is a very different animal,” Goodwin said. “It’s from outer space. It’s not necessarily an animal, it’s an alien.”
Goodwin said he hasn’t really said much to the group along those lines, however.
“To be honest, I leave them alone,” Goodwin said. “You don’t want to do too much talking. The film speaks for itself. The place we are going this weekend, the crowd noise … we know what we are up against.”
— That’s why the Cardinals need to be able to run the ball — it’s nice having David Johnson for that, although Johnson had to grind out his yardage in the first meeting, the infamous 6-6 tie. There can’t be penalties or sacks. Get at least a little something on each down. “This is not the place you want to go, this is not the team you want to see, in third-and-long,” Goodwin said.
— I don’t know how far Robert Nkemdiche has come yet. But I think it’s been proven that Bruce Arians wouldn’t give him praise unless something has gotten better. Doubtful we’ll see much the last two games, although he will play. It’s about 2017 for the first-round pick.
— Injuries always play a factor, but not having money linebacker Deone Bucannon against the mobile Russell Wilson tends to give one pause. Bucannon’s ability to run is unmatched by the guys filling in for him, and Wilson is clearly running better than how he did in the first meeting when he was hobbled with injuries.
— The secondary is also hurting. Arians acknowledged cornerback Marcus Cooper probably wouldn’t be able to play Saturday — if he doesn’t play, rookie Brandon Williams (who missed practice Thursday with a tight back) would get the start. Justin Bethel, who did say his foot is finally feeling better after the stress fracture that has hampered him for two seasons, remains behind Williams on the depth chart.
— There doesn’t seem to be any indication Tyrann Mathieu won’t play — the Cards need the bodies right now — but Mathieu playing and Mathieu being Honey Badger are two separate things. Arians on Mathieu’s play against the Saints: “He gave it everything he had. It ain’t Ty.” UPDATE: I guess I was wrong. Mathieu went to IR on Friday.
— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, on whether the defense took last weekend’s meltdown against the Saints personally. “Absolutely we took it personally,” Bettcher said. “There wasn’t a guy on our defensive staff and there wasn’t a guy in the locker room that wasn’t extremely disappointed in our performance. It wasn’t acceptable, it wasn’t up to our standard, that’s me included. It wasn’t up to my standard. We all own that.”
— Michael Floyd finally met with the New England media and talked about his DUI.
— Larry Fitzgerald said he has talked to David Johnson a lot about how to handle his burgeoning stardom off the field, like Emmitt Smith did with Fitz when Fitz first came into the league. For instance, Fitzgerald told Johnson to be fully dressed and “buttoned-up” when he talks after the game in front of the camera — you never know when a decision-maker at a company might see you and want you to be a spokesman.
“He doesn’t need a lot of advice,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s like a Christmas toy under the tree that doesn’t need any assembly. He’s out-of-the-box-ready.”
— Johnson, by the way, would tie Barry Sanders’ record for consecutive games with 100 scrimmage yards in 15 straight games in a season if he can reach that milestone Saturday.
— Bring on Seattle. Bring on 39 degrees and chilly rain. Bring on what always promises to be an interesting road trip.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Barry Sanders, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, John Wetzel, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Mike Iupati, Robert Nkemdiche, Seahawks, Taylor Boggs, Tyrann Mathieu
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Steve Keim noted — as was easy to see — that Calais Campbell played well in the loss to the Saints. And the Cardinals General Manager is not unaware of all the talk — including by Campbell himself — that Campbell might not be with the Cardinals next season with his free agency coming up (Campbell has made pretty clear he’d like to stay, but it’s a business.) The Cardinals have a lot of players who are about to become free agents. Keim, speaking on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, emphasized Monday it’s not like the Cards aren’t trying to be proactive with their roster.
“One thing public does not generally know, we have spoken to many agents regarding players whose contracts expire after the season and some whose contracts do not expire after the season that we’d just like to try to extend,” Keim said. “It takes two sides. Those are conversations I’ll keep to myself, that we don’t generally talk about through the media. There are several players we’d like to have back, but it takes two sides.”
— Keim said the Michael Floyd situation and subsequent release was “an unfortunate incident for both sides. Michael has moved on and we have moved on and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Keim was also asked about the reaction from the players about Floyd’s release — it wasn’t hard to see Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t thrilled with the situation — and whether the team talked to the leaders in the locker room about the move.
“No, I think the one thing, as players, you never can tell what they are thinking,” Keim said. “There is no doubt there is a tremendous amount of loyalty from player to player, which you have to respect. These guys are in the locker room and they are fighting and they are competing. There is a natural love. And listen, it’s no different as an organization, you get emotionally attached to these players. So when you have to make tough decisions it’s extremely difficult because you don’t just think of guys as football players. You also care about the person.”
(As for the reasons why Floyd was cut, team president Michael Bidwill addressed those Sunday.)
— Overall, with the playoffs officially gone, Keim said his biggest disappointment was that the team “underachieved.” He wants to use the lost season as a learning tool. Along those lines, it includes the need to build the “right kind of locker room.” Looking at a guy’s physical tools sometimes can overshadow the smarts a player has or his ability to process information, which need to be factored in.
“That’s the hardest to see as an evaluator, the heart and the mind,” Keim said.
— Keim liked what he saw from Carson Palmer Sunday, as well as Smokey Brown, Campbell and Tony Jefferson. He thought the offensive line held up “fairly well” given their circumstances. As for some of the newer/younger guys, he noticed linebacker Scooby Wright make a good block on special teams and guard Taylor Boggs hold up after being beat early. Linebacker Sio Moore was active, although Keim acknowledged he got beat a few times later in the game. As for rookies Brandon Williams and Robert Nkemdiche, Keim was muted in his praise but he still gave some, saying Nkemdiche flashed a couple of times and he still feels both will improve heading into 2017.
“Like I said last week, we’re using these last three games as somewhat of a litmus test of where you want to go in 2017 (with the roster),” Keim said.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Robert Nkemdiche, Scooby Wright, Sio Moore, Steve Keim, Taylor Boggs, Tony Jefferson
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Cardinals president Michael Bidwill just made an appearance on the Cardinals radio network’s pregame show, and was asked about the release of Michael Floyd. Bidwill said there had been a way for Floyd to remain on the team, but the Cards felt Floyd didn’t react well to the incident and the decision was made to move on.
“A lot went into (the decision to cut Floyd),” Bidwill said. “We got the news from sources early, and then the media, an hour-and-a-half before Michael called us. I was disappointed with how he handled it. I thought, even the two days we took before we made the final decision we were just going to release him, the story changed, there was no remorse. We asked him to be proactive in terms of his approach to this. He was unapologetic. There were a number of things (and) I was just not satisfied how he handled it.
“We just determined, you know what? He’s just not going to play for us again. Release him, it’s better to move on. I hope he gets healthy. I like him personally. He’s a great kid. I was really disappointed with how he handled this and you know, how he was handling his approach to the game, his approach to conditioning and approach to things, and I think it was affecting him, some of his issues were affecting him on the field.”
Bidwill reiterated the Cardinals asked Floyd to “proactively address” the situation in multiple conversations with Floyd and his agent and “they just did not want to do that.”
Bidwill said that could have led to Floyd remaining on the roster. “They certainly could’ve played it a lot differently,” Bidwill said. “We wanted to give him the opportunity to address his issues.”
Tags: Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd
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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he got “a couple calls” Wednesday from around the league from “GMs and coaches” asking about Michael Floyd now that Floyd had been released.
“I told them my honest opinion of him, that I think he’ll be a great pickup for whoever,” Fitzgerald said. “You’ve got a young guy who is hungry, who is eager to make plays in a contract year, has a chip on his shoulder now — not that he didn’t already have one — and I hope he makes a big playoff run.”
UPDATE: The Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers.
As for Floyd being released in the first place, Fitzgerald said he sees Floyd as a family member.
“I can’t give you my true feeling because people might get upset with what I really feel,” Fitzgerald said. “But Mike is like my brother. I’ve known him since he was 13 years old, we come from the same place. I love him dearly. Like any other family member, I never turn my back on him no matter what. I”m going to support him.”
Fitzgerald said he saw Floyd Wednesday and would be seeing him again today.
“It’s important during these times to support people when they are going through some stuff,” Fitzgerald said.
He also took issue with some descriptions of Floyd. “Contrary to reports, Mike was never an immature guy,” Fitzgerald said. “He had his incident in college, but we all make mistakes … Mike is a good young man. He’s someone I highly respect and care about deeply. I just hope he finds himself in a situation he is happy with and he has a long and prosperous career.”
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Patriots
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The Cardinals moved on from Michael Floyd quickly after his arrest for suspicion of DUI, and maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise. The team’s president is, after all, the chairman of the NFL’s conduct committee, and Michael Bidwill has strong feelings on off-field conduct. The circumstances had morphed for Floyd from the beginning of the season, when it was likely the free-agent-to-be was looking for a long-term contract that was probably going to be too rich for the Cards’ budget, to now, when he struggled every step of the way and had undercut his own open market — even before Sunday night’s/Monday morning’s incident.
But that part is over now. As for some of the details of the aftermath:
— This is the kind of thing that shakes up a team. “Obviously, this whole year has been kind of rough,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “And then seeing stuff like that happen, I think we’re all shocked and kind of in disbelief. We’ve got three games left to play so we’ve got to stay focused.”
— Yes, had the Cardinals carried Floyd through the end of the season and let him leave as a free agent, he likely would have figured in the equation for comp draft picks in 2018. But it isn’t a one-for-one thing. A team’s entire free-agent haul is compared (through a super secret formula based on the new contract and production) to what free agents were lost, and then the picks are distributed. With Floyd’s play this season, it was highly likely he was going to sign a relatively cheap, one-year contract anyway for 2017, in an attempt to rehab his value on the market and then try again in 2018.
Would he have been a comp pick factor? Probably. But it’ll be hard to tell how much.
— If Floyd is picked up on waivers, which we will know soon, he’s due $1.2 million. If not, he’ll be available as a free agent. UPDATE: The Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers.
— Carson Palmer was asked directly if he thought Floyd — who also had a DUI in college — had a problem. Palmer, who had already noted Floyd was a friend, quickly said no. He does face a possible suspension of a couple of games next season from the league.
— Where to now for the receiving corps these last three games? Coach Bruce Arians said Smokey Brown can “hopefully” get more snaps this week. J.J. Nelson has played better, but he still has to show he can do it consistently. Brittan Golden, you’re going to get some time. And this, more than any other reason, is why David Johnson may be a 1,000×2 guy after all.
— This was probable even if Floyd wasn’t released, because like I said I didn’t expect his return, but the Cardinals will have to look seriously at drafting a bigger receiver now. Floyd won’t be around and Larry Fitzgerald’s status has reached year-to-year.
Tags: Brittan Golden, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Michael Floyd, Patriots, Tyrann Mathieu
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