Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had an incredible bounce-back year in 2015. After injury-riddled seasons and Carson Palmer going down in previous years, he broke out and set a team and career record for receptions and showed he is still one of the game's best players.
He had 109 receptions for over 1200 yards and nine touchdowns. Those are numbers we hadn't seen in years. They were numbers he believed he wasn't capable of putting up because of his role in the offense.
So what changed?
"Just the opportunities, the targets," he told me recently in an interview while he was promoting EAS. "I think that's the biggest difference. Anybody who was given the opportunities would have been able to do it."
He was targeted 145 times. He was only targeted 103 and 135 times in each of the previous two seasons, so he did have more opportunities.
Health also was a factor, both his and his quarterback's. Fitz struggled through hamstring injuries in 2013 and knee injuries in 2014. Carson Palmer played only six games as well in 2014. Palmer's elite play also helped.
Fitz also credited the running game and the production from Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington and David Johnson.
"I think the way they were able to soften up the defense, there were more single high coverage, which means it's one-on-one," he explained, as the ability to run the football kept teams from being able to do things to take away individual players like himself or others.
He believes 2016 can be a good one for the Cardinals and if the core nucleus of players stays healthy, they can do good things. Now, with David Johnson ready to be the starter and Chris Johnson returning, the running game should be productive again. We might be able to see another big year from Fitz in 2016.