The 2014 positional analysis is back with a look at the Cardinals’ wide receivers. The pass-catchers had some up and down moments in 2014, but ultimately came out a big positive for the team.
With passing becoming the driver of NFL offenses, it’s only natural that the guys catching the passes would before very important NFL players. The 2014 draft class added several young players to a position already loaded with talent. Being a wide receiver is one of the more glamorous and exciting positions in the game, and the best at it certainly make an impression.
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The Cardinals didn’t have a receiver who put up crazy numbers, but the receiving corp was an effective aspect of the Cards 2014 team, coming up big in many important spots. The tragic return of the quarterback carousel hurt the group’s production, but there was still a lot to like in 2014, and ideally there will be more going forward.
Nov 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) tackles Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11)first halfduring the at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Stats: 14 games| 63 receptions for 784 yards (12.4 yard average)| 2 touchdowns
At face value, Larry Fitzgerald’s last season looks like a pretty big failure. With the exception of his rookie season, all of his numbers were the lowest totals he’s put up in a very impressive career. Taking stats at face value, you may wonder if he was worth the $22 million the Cards gave him in a restructured contract.
Several things went into Fitzgerald’s statistically inferior season. A hamstring injury that kept him out for a couple of games hobbled him for a good portion of the season. By the time he got healthy, Drew Stanton and Carson Palmer were both down, and that made his last few games of the season a challenge. Both of those elements conspired against Fitz last season.
It is also the time when the recalibrating of our expectations about Fitzgerald should be done. It’s totally possible that his big numbers days are wrapping up, both because of age and because it is no longer necessary to rely on him entirely. Arizona is developing two young receivers who both have star power, and they will take touches from Fitz.
That doesn’t mean his role is not significant. He still draws major defensive attention to ease the way for his teammates,and whenever he is left open, he can still rip off a big play. His role now is less flashy but just as important, and he’s still the steady voice of reason in the locker room.
It is best for both parties that Fitzgerald and the Cards were able to work out a long-term deal that will keep him in Arizona. He means a lot to the team, despite what the stats say. IF he can bounce back statistically in 2015, that added bonus and the cap space he helped to create will pay major dividends throughout the season.
Jan 3, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) catches a pass over Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (24) during the first quarter in the 2014 NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Stats: 16 games| 47 reception for 841 yards(17.9 yard average)| 6 touchdowns
Michael Floyd’s 2014 season was an enigmatic cycle of promising and disappointing. After a breakout 2013 where he notched over 1,000 yards, 2014 looks like a step back. Floyd had several big games in 2014, but also several games where he was unable to contribute.
This isn’t all on Floyd. As a young receiver, some quarterback consistency would do him some good, but only in 2013 did he have one signal caller for the whole time. Bruce Arians acknowledged this but also said that consistency was an issue he needed to solve.
Floyd has the ability to be a very good NFL player. He is a top-notch athlete, and after three years, had been able to hone the more mental aspects of playing at the pro level. The challenge now is, as it is for many players, to get all those abilities working in tandem on a consistent basis.
If Floyd can make that happen, he’ll earn himself a big payday when his contract is up. He couldn’t quite get there in 2014, but again, adversity held him back. His performance in 2015 will be important in making the Cards’ offense a formidable force.
Nov 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) catches a 48 yard touchdown during the second half against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Stats: 16 games| 48 reception for 696 yards (14.5 yard average)| 5 touchdowns
John Brown was one of the brightest spots of the Cardinals in 2014. The rookie from Pittsburgh State made a name for himself by being very, very fast, and the Cards snagged him in the third round of the NFL draft.
Once he got to camp, the hype train went full steam. Cards’ GM Steve Keim praised him publicly on several occasions, not only for his speed but for his overall natural ability. What really matters is how he responded on the field. Those results were, fortunately, very promising.
Brown’s biggest accomplishment was notching four game winning touchdowns in dramatic fashion. Without him, Arizona would’ve been in trouble, but he came up in big moments. Despite a very successful season, the incredible talent of the 2014 rookie receiver class overshadowed some of his great work is Arizona.
The obvious next step for him is to continue to learn and develop as a player, as well as come out proving his rookie season was not a fluke. If he can do that, he can become a very important offensive player for an NFL team. He proved he had that ability with an excellent first year. Now he has to build on it.
Oh, and his touchdown celebration in amazing. Let’s not forget that.
Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown (13) catches a touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Stats: 16 games| 22 receptions for 229 yards (10.4 yard average)| 2 touchdowns
The other J. Brown that wears Cardinal red sometimes does not get the credit he deserves. For the past two years, he has done his job as the Cardinals reserve receiver very well. When someone was injured ,or no one was open on sets with several receivers, Jaron Brown could make something happen.
Brown is really an ideal reserve. He is committed to working hard and doing well in his smaller role, and occasionally he can step up and make a big play. He has great size and decent hands and instincts, and can do enough of everything to keep him on the team.
He also tacked on an important game-winner against the Kansas City Chiefs this year, giving an otherwise quiet contributor an important crowning moment in the 2014 season. How long he remains a Cardinal is unsure, but he’s a good guy who can do a few things in a small role. He was able to do that in 2014, and deserves due credit for it.
Nov 2, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr (19) runs after a reception against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Receiving Stats: 16 games| 14 receptions for 190 yards (13.6 yard average)| 0 touchdowns
Returning Stats: 22 kick returns for 417 yards (19.0 yard average)| 26 punt returns for 277 yards(10.7 yard average)| 1 touchdown
A year ago, I gave the Cardinals signing of return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. a B+ grade. He was a new returner and could provide some depth at the receiver positions. Much to the chagrin of myself and probably all Cardinals fans, he did not really do either of those things.
Ginn simply was not able to get on the filed on offense. He was targeted only 26 times throughout the season. Overall, his career as a receiver has been a disappointment. Despite having blazing speed, he doesn’t possess enough skill to be a primary target for quarterbacks.
That’s all fine though. Some players are just naturally return specialists, and those guys often don’t get enough recognition. In the case of Ginn, his time as Arizona’s returner was an abject failure. The Cards were last in kick return per game, and it was frustrating that Ginn often ran out kicks and punts where he should’ve called for a fair catch or otherwise avoided trying to make a play.
Of course, special teams in football is as much about the unit as a whole as any elements of sports, so the blame does not all go to Ginn. The blocking unit often failed to open lanes for him to accelerate through. All the same, his time as Cardinal was unsuccessful, and therefore brief. He was released earlier this offseason and returned to the Carolina Panthers.
This unit still hasn’t found a peak since the Fitzgerald-Anquan Boldin years, but the unit was a bright spot in 2014. It balances an aging Hall of Famer with some young talent, and there is potential for more growth. This group held strong through injury struggles, and it deserves credit for still impressing despite a myriad of challenges.