With the third pick in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft the Arizona Cardinals selected Larry Fitzgerald wide receiver out of Pittsburgh. Since then the six-time Pro Bowler has established franchise records for receptions (693), receiving yards (9,615), receiving touchdowns (73), total touchdowns (73), 100-yard receiving games (32) and 1,000-yard receiving seasons (6).
Unfortunately the 29-year-old Fitzgerald is coming off of one of his worst seasons last year recording only 71 receptions, 798 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 11.2 yards per catch. Despite those poor statistics he still led the team in receiving yards. Much of his struggles last year can be attributed to the Cards’ issues at quarterback and offensive line.
Quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer combined for a 55.4% completion rate, 11 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions. Maybe newly acquired, experienced quarterback Carson Palmer is the answer.
Palmer is entering his 11th year in the league. With the Oakland Raiders last season he passed for 4,018 yards and threw 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
With the new offensive system in place under head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Tom Moore, Fitzgerald can get a fresh start. Fitzgerald is learning three new wide receiver positions, his typical split end position (X) along with flanker (Z) and the slot (F).
Learning new positions will allow Fitzgerald to be more of a threat around the field and add some versatility to his game. This will also allow the offense to get the ball out to other receivers rather than relying heavily on Fitzgerald. The defense will have to be more honest if the other receivers like Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd become more consistent options.
Fitzgerald’s best season was in 2008 with Kurt Warner under center. In the Cardinals’ NFC Championship season he had a career high 1,431 yards, 96 catches and 12 touchdowns. That year he broke Jerry Rice’s post-season receiving yard record of 409 with 419 yards.
Predicting his stats for next season, Fitzgerald should have around 1,000 yards, 90 catches and 8 touchdowns. In his ten years of NFL experience Fitz has proven he is too physically gifted and mentally tough not to bounce back. He will still be the go-to-guy for the dirty birds.