Yesterday, in my “PFF 2019 Grades: NFC West by Position” thread, AZ_Cardinals_Fan asked an outstanding question as to why Larry Fitzgerald would have a similar 2019 PFF grade to the 49ers’ Kendrick Bourne, when Fitz caught 75 passes for 804 yards and 4 TDs, while Bourne caught 30 passes for 358 yards and 5 TDs.
I promised AZ_Cardinals_Fan that I would do some digging to see what I could find and what I found is, imho, worthy of this new thread.
In a recent PFF article in which they ranked the most efficient WRs of 2019, they had Fitz rated #10 in the NFL in “catch rate percentage” at 72.1% and they had Bourne rated #9 in the NFL in “passer rating when targeted” at 121.1. This could partly explain why Fitz’s overall PFF grade was 70.3 and Bourne’s was 69.8.
When one digs a little deeper, what hurt Fitz’s overall grade was his poor run blocking grade of 46.2. Bourne’s pass blocking and run blocking grades were little higher than Fitz’s.
When we look at Fitz’s PFF grades over the last 5 years, we can see a slight decline on overall performance from year to year—-but—-stay tuned to the end of this analysis because I think you might be encouraged by my conclusions. In the meantime, have a close look at the grades and their breakdowns:
2019: Overall:70.3; Pass: 71.6; Pass Blocking: 64.4; Run Blocking: 46.2; Penalties: 2
2018: Overall:73.2; Pass: 72.3; Pass Blocking: ---; Run Blocking: 61.6 Penalties: 2
2017: Overall:80.0; Pass: 78.8; Pass Blocking: 74.5; Run Blocking: 71.4; Penalties: 2
2016: Overall:83.3 Pass: 80.2; Pass Blocking: 75.1; Run Blocking: 86.2; Penalties: 1
2015: Overall:89.4; Pass: 87.3; Pass Blocking: 79.7; Run Blocking: 86.7; Penalties: 2
As you can see, Fitz’s overall grade has lowered each year---which some pundits might attribute some to age (I do not, however, because I think the decline has much more to do with playing in 3 different offenses under 4 OCs and 5 QBs over the past 5 seasons).
Take a close look at Fitz’s stats:
2019: Targets: 109; Receptions: 75; Yards: 804; Average: 10.7; TDs: 4; 1st Downs: 40; Catch% (Targets to catches):68.8%
2018: Targets: 112; Receptions: 69; Yards: 734; Average: 10.6; TDs: 6; 1st Downs: 39; Catch% (Targets to catches):61.6%
2017: Targets: 161; Receptions: 109; Yards: 1,156; Average: 10.6; TDs: 6; 1st Downs: 65; Catch% (Targets to catches):67.7%
2016: Targets: 150; Receptions: 107; Yards: 1,023; Average: 9.6; TDs: 6; 1st Downs: 60; Catch% (Targets to catches):71.3%
2015: Targets: 145; Receptions: 109; Yards: 1,215; Average: 11.1; TDs: 9; 1st Downs: 65; Catch% (Targets to catches):75.2%
- Upon doing a little more digging and research, I think the PFF grades are more accurate and justifiable than I had first thought.
- I believe that Fitz’s blocking grades were poorer than usual in 2019 because the blocking assignments in the K-Raid are more sophisticated, particularly on down field blocking assignments on bubble screens and run plays. I do not think Fitz lost any interest in blocking—-I just think that in this new offense the blocks are harder to pull off with consistency.
- Put it this way—-the farther away you are from the defender you are assigned to block, the harder it is to block him. Expect Fitz to be more improved at it this year.
- Fitz’s statistics are incredibly consistent and productive when one considers the changes the Cardinals have gone through over the past five years at HC, OC and at QB.
- Fitz looks and plays pretty much like he always has—-when you watch him play does it look to you like age has taken a significant toll on him? I don’t see it. Watch these plays on the 2 plus minute highlight video:
- What’s most encouraging is that Fitz’s best year came when he and Carson Palmer were able to play all 16 games. If Kyler Murray and Fitz have another 16 games together this season, there are many reasons to believe that Fitz could have one of his best years ever in catch percentage (his 68.8% last year was Fitz’s best in 3 years).
- Fitz is bound to face far less attention from the safeties this season, with DeAndre Hopkins on their mind. Thus, Kyler’s accuracy, combined with Fitz’s tremendous ability to catch the football, particularly on contested passes, could result in very special results, for a 23 year old, 2nd year QB and a 37 year old, 17 year veteran WR chasing history.