There were a few spectacular performances from the Arizona Cardinals’ 16-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but perhaps none were more critical to the team’s victory than J.J. Nelson’s. Finishing with 5 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, Nelson was absolutely spectacular with his ability to stretch the field and catch the ball in traffic.
Coming off that great performance, a weird question suddenly dawned on me. Is Nelson the best wide receiver currently wearing an Arizona Cardinals uniform?
Before you call me crazy, stick with me. The running game didn’t get much traction with the offensive line mixing in new pieces due to injury and with David Johnson being out. The Cardinals had to rely heavily on the arm of Carson Palmer and their somewhat diminished wide receiver team.
Larry Fitzgerald, from what I have seen so far this year, appears to have finally lost a step. He has never been the fastest receiver on the field, but even working out of the slot now, he is almost exclusively an underneath guy at this point in his career. Meanwhile, John Brown simply cannot be relied upon with his extensive injuries, the latest of which involves his quad.
Jaron Brown has been a nice piece coming off his ACL tear, but he does not have the speed necessary to take the top off a defense either. This was reinforced when he went deep and had the ball knocked out of his hands by safety Malik Hooker. He is a possession receiver that sometimes has difficulty possessing the ball.
That leaves J.J. Nelson. He is the only guy that can be a threat with his speed while John Brown is out and get consistent separation from opposing defenders. If his catch rate can remain as high as it did on Sunday against the Colts, he is going to see a lot more targets come his way. After all, the biggest knock on him has always been his ability to simply catch the ball.
I am not definitively ready to say he is the best wide receiver the Cardinals have. But when you look at the first two games at the production levels and if you’ve watched the games, there is no doubt that Nelson is vying to become one of the top offensive weapons on this team.