With Fitz, nothing to see here

Posted by Darren Urban on November 15, 2013 – 8:25 am

For a second straight year, Larry Fitzgerald’s biggest game of the season — around the midway point on the schedule — has preceded games in which he just hasn’t been able to make a big impact. But the Cardinals are winning. Is there concern about Fitz? Not with ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who said on his weekly appearance during the “Burns and Gambo show” on Arizona Sports 620 that Fitz is just fine even without the gaudy stats.

“I’m not worried about Larry,” Jaworski said. “I look at his tape and I see Larry getting open, I still see him getting the shaded coverage. Teams still give him incredible respect for what he can do. It’s only going to be a matter of time until he will get that 10- or 12-catch game for a buck-fifty, 200 yards. It’s going to happen. Larry is still one of the elite players in the league.”

Last year, Fitz had a good game in Green Bay and then the stats fell off. This year, Fitz broke out with his six-catch-117-yard game in San Francisco, but since, he has been pretty quiet (although he did get a touchdown catch against the Falcons). Fitzgerald is on pace for 69 receptions for 876 yards — totals that would surpass last year, but obviously well short of what anyone expected. (I know I thought Fitz was going to have a big year.) It’s gotten to the point where, when Fitz holds his weekly media group, the questions about him personally getting the ball don’t even come up much anymore.

I’ve been asked a lot if Larry is frustrated. I haven’t had that conversation with him, but knowing him as I do, of course he is. Part of what drives him is his own legacy, and while that includes winning, it also includes stats that he’s had trouble collecting the last season-and-a-half. But I also know Fitz isn’t going to pop off about it, especially when the team is notching wins.

No one can really say (or no one is willing to say) why the Palmer-to-Fitz connection hasn’t clicked more. Fitz has been targeted 70 times, which isn’t a ton for a top receiver, but it shows how many misfires the two have had. At one point a few weeks ago, six of Palmer’s interceptions came on throws to Fitz, so maybe he was trying too hard to make it happen. I’m not sure Fitzgerald has down pat all those different positions he must play in Bruce Arians’ system. The pass protection hasn’t been great (although Jaworski emphasized the line played its best game against J.J. Watt and Houston.) And of course, Fitz’s bad hamstrings have played a role.

In the meantime, we’ll wait for Jaworski’s prediction of Fitzgerald and a breakout. We know Fitz can help blocking too. Right Richard Sherman?

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Palmer and throwing from behind

Posted by Darren Urban on July 11, 2013 – 10:35 am

The numbers are stark, presented by ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski as he unveiled his rankings of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. He placed Carson Palmer 23rd in the 32-team league — more on that in a bit — but also talked about some numbers Palmer worked through last season while playing for the Raiders. During Oakland’s 4-12 season, Palmer threw 565 passes in 15 games, with 73 percent of those passes coming when the Raiders were trailing in the game. An astonishing 70 percent came when the Raiders were down by at least seven points.

You can read that a couple of ways. You can read it that Palmer threw for more than 4,000 yards (4,018, to be exact) only because he was throwing all the time. Then again, to come up with 22 TD passes and only 14 interceptions on that many passes — when the majority of the time the other team knew he was going to throw — probably should count for something. Certainly the numbers are much better than what was posted in Arizona behind center last season.

Being ranked 23rd doesn’t exactly engender Pro Bowl hopes here. But here is a sampling of what Jaworski said during his ESPN appearance talking about the new Cards’ QB and it was pretty positive:

“I thought the Cardinals’ trade for Palmer was an excellent move,” Jaworski said. “He will stabilize the Arizona offense and work effectively with new head coach Bruce Arians.

“There’s a disconnect between perception and reality with Palmer. Many think he throws too many interceptions. He only threw 14 last season in 591 drop-backs. A few are dramatic and memorable; those stick out in people’s minds, shaping an image that’s hard to get rid of. … Palmer still has very good arm strength. He has the mentality of a strong-armed passer, willing and confident in pushing the ball down the field. … Palmer can still make those kinds of throws. That ability will fit well in Arians’ aggressive, downfield passing game.

“Palmer will allow the Cardinals’ offense to attack the entire field. He gives Arizona a multi-dimensional passing game. He reads coverage well. He can beat the blitz. He’s efficient in the red zone. He can execute a high volume of offense. I have always liked Palmer. The major concern in Arizona is the offensive line. Palmer is a pocket passer with excellent arm talent, but he needs time and functional space. That’s the unknown as we head into the 2013 season.”

Palmer continues to work with the wideouts as camp approaches. The Cardinals’ defense, meanwhile, should be good enough to make sure Palmer isn’t working from behind quite as often this season.

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