Any football fan has heard the phrase “It’s a passing league”. Despite being cliche, it’s an undeniable reality of the NFL as it stands today. A team must have a solid quarterback and talent around him, particularly at wide receiver With the Cardinals season getting under way in just over two weeks, it’s time to see how the wide receivers will stack up on the depth chart. All of these players have provided reasons for confidence in the Cards passing attack.
1. Larry Fitzgerald
Shocker, right? While Larry Fitzgerald has slowed a little with age, he still has all of the tools needed to maintain his status as an elite receiver in. He still has big play ability, though it isn’t on display as much as it used to be with Kurt Warner. Because of this decline, his standing among analysts and other players has fallen. In NFL Networks Top 100 players of 2014, Fitzgerald fell to 38th, despite his statistical rebound from the previous season.
The Cardinals now have several young and/or fast players involved in the offense. Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn, and Andre Ellington are all fast and can all be deep threats downfield, meaning Fitzgerald doesn’t need to break off for 30 yard catches to contribute. Instead, his strength, body control, and precise route running give him the ability to catch the tough passes over the middle, which is something no other Cards offensive player can match.
Ultimately, Fitzgeralds contribution supersedes his stats because he balances out the passing attack, making a deep throw just as likely as a short grab and breakaway run.
2. Michael Floyd
Michael Floyd has a rookie year to forget, partially thanks to the Cardinals QB nightmare in 2012. As a sophomore, he flipped the switch and showed excellent playmaking ability. He made sideline catches, got yards after the catch, ran sharp routes and did all of the other things a good receiver has to do when called upon.
Floyd really does bring that Anquan Boldin kind of contribution. If a team overcommits to keeping guys on Fitz, Floyd will go off and rack up the yards. That legitimate second option adds a great boost to the offense.
3. John Brown
This is where the lines get blurred. John Brown and Ted Ginn Jr are both capable third receivers. Some might think the fact that Brown is only a rookie gives Ginn the edge, but when it comes down to it, Brown should fill this spot.
Ginn is more of a specialist, using his speed to streak downfield and breakaway from defenders. Brown is fast to, but he’s also able to run short routes and make the tough catches. The less predictable and more versatile the Cardinals offense will be., the more success they will have when the season begins.
No doubt Brown will, like every other NFL rookie, have some growing pains. He’ll miss some catches he should make, but Bruce Arians knows how to get production out of young offensive players, and if Brown puts in the work, Arians can turn him into another productive rookie circa Mike Wallace in 2009.
His development adds crucial Seth to the receiving corp.
4. Ted Ginn
Ginn is now the primary return man, and the necessity of solid special teams means the Cardinals shouldn’t put him in the line of fire more than is needed. His speed is his primary weapon, and he can use it to draw the focus of safeties who can’t let him get open deep. A key part of a great passing game is the ability to have options at all distances, and Ginn provides a great target for Carson Palmers strong arm.
5. Jaron Brown
Don’t be surprised if this Brown also edges out Ginn. It’s unlikely unless Ginn underperforms, but it isn’t impossible that J. Brown and J. Brown will be a common sight in Arizona. The point is that Jaron Brown, who was undrafted in 2013, has secured potentially the final receiver spot (though there are reports that the Cards may keep six). Brown is a strong player with the soft touch a wideout needs. He doesn’t catch any eyes, but when the Cardinals have put him to the test this preseason, he has answered. That’s what a team really needs out of a reserve receiver: someone dependable. If anyone is injured, he can step in and do a solid job filling the void. Brown fits that bill perfectly.
Carson Palmer has a group around him that can be extremely productive. The Cardinals now being a passing attack that defenses will struggle to predict, as each player could go deep down the side, over the middle, or get a screen and run. If Carson Palmer can get the protection he needs to get then the football, these five guys, and the offense in general, can lead the Cardinals to a successful season.