Perhaps one of the most puzzling things for Arizona Cardinals fans this season has been the offensive struggles after an offseason of hype about the new offensive schemes being implemented.
Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Rob Housler were expected to have huge years and Carson Palmer would be able to throw for 4000+ yards by default -- after all, he did it as a member of the Raiders.
But the one thing that has us concerned is the production of Larry Fitzgerald.
Through seven games, he has 32 receptions for 422 yards and four touchdowns. The touchdowns equal his total last season, but his numbers projected through the rest of the season are to catch 73 passes for 965 yards. That would be considered a down year, especially after a season ago, when he only had 71 catches for 798 yards.
Last year it was easy to blame terrible quarterback play. They tried to get the ball to him, but just were bad.
However, when you look back over his career, he has been able to put up big numbers even with iffy quality at quarterback. In 2005 and 2006, when Kurt Warner (the one that was considered washed up), Josh McCown and Matt Leinart split time, Fitz caught 172 balls for over 2500 yards. More recently, with the trio of Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton, he still managed 90 receptions for over 1100 yards. That was bad QB play that year.
This year, he has an established veteran QB in Carson Palmer. His play has been bad, but a different type. He turns the ball over a lot. He is better than the guys that have been playing here since Kurt Warner, but he has 13 picks in seven games.
This season he has been playing with nagging hamstring issues. This makes sense.
He is in a new offense and he is learning multiple positions. The idea is to make it less predictable where he will be and create more mismatches. Head coach Bruce Arians did the same thing with Reggie Wayne and saw his production go back to what he was doing before after a down year.
However, Kurt Warner, now an NFL Network analyst, believes that playing Fitz inside is taking away from his ability to make plays, in addition just making him a little more uncertain about what to do on the field. IN other words, Arians believes moving Fitz around will get him more production, while Warner thinks that it makes him less dynamic because it takes him away from the areas where he is most dangerous.
So there are injuries, offensive scheme and quarterback play. Those are all valid reasons for the drop in production.
The issue is that the one thing many are overlooking is the question we don't want to ask -- what if Fitz is simply not as good as he used to be? He is 30 years old. He works as hard as anyone out there. But is it time to start asking that question.
Yes, he has been injured, and hamstring problems do affect explosiveness. However, how many times have we seen Fitz beat his man recently? He isn't getting separation.
It isn't as if teams weren't scheming to take him out of the equation before last year. They were -- he still was productive.
Is it not being comfortable moving around and playing inside? Is it his injuries? Is it the QB play, or the play of the offensive line leading to poor protection?
Or is it time to wonder if he is simply declining.
Because he has been hurt, it is hard to tell. But at what point will Cardinals fans start asking the question? It is a tough question. He is paid a lot....A LOT of money. He is a figurehead for the team.
Are we going to see the old Fitz again over the coming weeks, or have we begun to see an old Fitz?
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