How can Arizona Cardinals WR Michael Floyd take the next step in his career?

USA TODAY Sports

A look with game tape at what he did last year and how he can improve for 2013.

On the first ever ROTB Podcast, I admitted to not being on board with the Bruce Arians hiring at the time.

His philosophy of a vertical attacking offense, with deep five and seven-step drops, was the last thing I wanted to see a Kevin Kolb-led football team using as their offensive philosophy.

Then magically things fell into place, the Cardinals cut Kolb and were able to find a fit in the Arians offense at the quarterback position with Carson Palmer.

I discussed what Palmer brings to the Arians offense, and where he could be making his money in 2013, those intermediate throws, 10-19 yards down the field is where Palmer still shows an elite ability.

One of the things we can assume with relative certainty is that Larry Fitzgerald is still a very good, likely great, wide receiver in the NFL, and with Carson Palmer coming aboard, he should at least put up number one receiver type of numbers again in 2013.

Then we have the continued progression of Andre Roberts, who has put up steady numbers each year, and has all the makings of a very solid number three receiver in the NFL, despite what ProFootballFocus' stats have to say about him.

That leaves the question about whether or not Michael Floyd can step up and become the unquestioned number two receiver on the Cardinals roster. While the physical talent is without a doubt there, the intricacies of being an NFL wide receiver seem to be missing at times, and that, along with some very awful quarterback play, stunted his growth in year one.

Now Floyd comes into year two with a new offensive scheme, with new coaches, a new quarterback, and the onus will be on him to refine those skills and make his mark.

From Week 3 until the end of the season, Floyd played in 57 percent of possible snaps, 544 total, and ended the season with 45 receptions on 79 targets, 562 yards, 161 of those yards after the catch, two touchdowns, with five dropped passes and a fumble (he was also credited with giving up an interception vs the Jets).

With the new search feature on the NFL Game Rewind, it makes taking a look at all 79 Floyd targets easily, but that isn't the focus. No, the focus will be on what Floyd did in those "Arians Routes" 10+ yards down the field, and why of his 79 targets, 40 came on those attempts, and yet he only caught 16 of those passes.

Early in the season we saw very little attention paid to Michael Floyd from both a coaching perspective and a quarterback perspective. In fact, from Week 8 and beyond, Floyd averaged 7.2 targets a game, meaning he would have been targeted over 115 times if he saw that amount all 16 weeks.

Where is the disconnect between receiver and quarterback on these routes, and where did Floyd succeed? Let's take a look:

One of the first games I watched of Floyd was the game versus the Miami Dolphins in Week 4.

We all remember the missed catch early in the game, but that's a play he will make, hopefully, in the future.

He did an excellent job of winning early at the line of scrimmage and getting his body into perfect position. He just failed to complete the play.

We saw the Cardinals target Floyd often; they used him on two routes deep, but most of the routes carried him to the ten-yard marker and back, five of his eight targets were dig routes, the other two were fades down the sideline.

Those dig routes resulted in three catches for thirty yards, but the problem was how he ended the routes.

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Floyd needs to stick the route at the 31 and dig back to the ball, yet he gets to the 31 by rounding off his route and sitting at the 30.

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This isn't a huge deal, as Kolb got the pass to him and they picked up the first down, but he doesn't drive the defensive back off of him; instead, he shows his route early, allowing the defender to break on the ball, and make the tackle immediately.

In Week 17 against the 49ers, it was nearly a mirror image of what he was doing in Week 4:

Floyd4_medium

We see Floyd lined up outside on the wide side of the field, and he's going against man coverage.

Floyd needs to get to the 27 or 26 before he gets into his break and pushes back to the 30, but he starts to get into his break at the 32.

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When Floyd finally gets out of his break he's at the 26 and the cornerback is just sitting at the 25. Again he doesn't drive the defender back in the route, and allows for the corner to be in the play, a bad throw negates the route though.

Week 13 against the Jets (I know we are all trying to forget this game).

Floyd7_medium

This is a high usage route in the Arians offense, the 15-yard out, and what we see here is again Floyd leads into his break early and rounds it off, the result on this play is a completion by Lindley on a FANTASTIC catch by Floyd showing great body control and getting his feet down in bounds, but again he made it harder than it needed to be.

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Again, Floyd started his break at the 24-yard line and ended up getting to the 19. That's not a clean out break and he almost floats to the out here.

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Now I want to preface this by saying that I don't expect Floyd to be the perfectionist in route running like Larry Fitzgerald is, but here is Fitz on a similar route in the San Francisco game.

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Fitz runs the defender off the ball and you'll notice on his break that when he plants and gets back to the ball, the defender is on his heels, allowing for the separation needed for the completion.

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Much like Floyd, there's no run after the catch, but that's because Hoyer missed him early and came back to him late on this particular play.

As I talked about earlier with the stills of the Jets game, Floyd's body control, ability to be physical at the line of scrimmage and win 50/50 balls is special, and those skills will carry him to a long career. The question will be is that career going to be along the lines of Mushin Muhammad, the Panthers great made two Pro Bowls and was a one time All-Pro, or can he put it all together and be like Brandon Marshall and take over the reins of the number one receiver duties in Arizona.

When Floyd is able to get in and out of his breaks consistently without having to set himself up, and he's able to drive the defender off his routes and create separation for the quarterback you'll see that leap, and honestly the sky is the limit at that point.

If not... Muhammad's career wasn't too bad.

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