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Unleash Izzy in 2022

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In recent days, Cardinals fans have been weighing the merits of the team signing Julio Jones and re-signing A.J. Green.

Julio Jones showed last year that he is only a shell of his old self and while A.J. Green had a good start to the season for the Cardinals, just like the team, down the stretch, the level of his play waned.

When a team signs former All-Pros like Jones and Green, it behooves the team to play them. The problem is, what happens if a younger wide receiver starts playing better or simply is better?

On the Cardinals, the various WR coaches have not often entertained playing the younger players ahead of the veterans. As a result, a potential star in 2019 2nd round pick Andy Isabella, who was A.J. Green’s backup last season, rarely, if ever, saw the field, unless it was on special teams (where his excellent 79.2 PFF ST grade was 3rd best on the team).

Some have argued that Izzy must be a total bust, which is why he was designated a number of times as inactive on game days. The truth is, WR coach Shawn Jefferson, kept a strict depth chart at the various WR spots:

X WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Antoine Wesley

Z WR: Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch

W WR: A.J. Green, Andy Isabella

Because of DeAndre Hopkins’ “questionable” status for most of the weeks before his season ending MCL injury, Antoine Wesley was active on game days, because he was D-Hop’s backup.

Christian Kirk played in all 18 games and A.J. Green played in 17 of 18 (missing the game at SF). Rondale Moore played in the first 14 games and missed the last 3 games of the regular season.

As a result, Andy Isabella was often the odd man out on game days because A.J. Green was healthy, while Hopkins and Moore were not.

The one target that Izzy had all season came in the 4th quarter of the Cardinals’ 30-12 loss to the Lions, when Colt McCoy, who subbed for Kyler Murray, connected with him for a 13 yard gain.

That’s Andy Isabella’s line for the season:

1 target, 1 catch, 13 yards, 13.0 ave., 0 TDs.

It certainly didn’t help Izzy’s cause that he missed the first two pre-season games due to COVID protocols and with a chance to show his value in pre-season game three and Kliff Kingsbury saying he was very excited to see what Izzy could do, the Cardinals’ jet headed for New Orleans returned mid-flight to Phoenix because the game had been cancelled.

The irony is, if given the proper chance, in my opinion, there’s a decent chance that Andy Isabella would have been as or more productive than A.J. Green and possibly even more than Christian Kirk.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the Cardinals’ QBs take the time to bond with Izzy, like in part in the way Matthew Stafford worked extra with Cooper Kupp each day, then Andy Isabella would show up this year, big-time.

If you know anything about Andy Isabella, the person, no one is going to work harder. He is legendary in New England for shoveling the football field at UMass during snowstorms so that he could resume his daily workouts.

As a dynamic player, Izzy gains the quickest separation of any WR on the roster. Some fans forget that Izzy became a household name in Ohio as a high school track phenomenon who turned in epic competitions versus Denzel Ward in the 100 meter dash.

Turns out that Izzy went on to beat Ward’s Combine 40, by one one-hundredth of a second:

  • Denzel Ward: 4.32
  • Andy Isabella: 4.31

This is Izzy’s 100 meter Ohio State Championship run (he’s in the middle in the white top):

At UMass, Andy Isabella was, as the team’s standout WR, double and triple teamed in virtually every game. Yet, his production, playing with a variety of QBs, was off the charts:

231 catches for 3,526 yards, 15.3 ave., 30 TDs, 40 rushes for 342 yards, 8.6 ave,, 2 TDs

Check out the plays he made in his final college game versus SEC powerhouse Georgia.

15 catches, for 219 yards, 14.6 ave., 2 TDs

Having Izzy opposite D-Hop is a formula for huge success. Having to deal with Izzy as a constant deep threat is going to put teams’ deep safeties in a quandary. Do they tilt to help on Hopkins? Or do they shade over to Izzy’s side?

Plus, if the coaches have Izzy run the same routes where Christian Kirk got most of his yardage: cross corners, go routes, straight seams and 10-15 yard out passes, he is faster and more explosive running those routes. That’s why I believe that Izzy could have been as or even more productive that Kirk this past season.

While a Cardinal, Andy Isabella has played behind 3 future Hall of Fame WRs in Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. He also had to play behind the Cardinals’ 2nd round pick they year before him, in Christian Kirk, who amazingly is now one the top 3 highest paid WRs in the NFL.

Plus, what still gives me goosebumps is watching one of my all-time favorite Cardinals, Larry Centers, who gave his all on every snap to the team, introduce the #62 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft:

Unleash Izzy and give him his chance this year.

Like Larry Centers, Izzy is a finisher, and the Cardinals need finishers now more than ever.

I would strongly suggest that the Cardinals add a WR at #23 or at #55 to make the following WR group :

  • DeAndre Hopkins
  • Andy Isabella
  • Rondale Moore
  • Antoine Wesley
  • Pick at #23 or #55: Garrett Wilson (Ohio St.), Chris Olave (Ohio St.), Drake London (USC), Jameson Williams (ALA), Treylon Burks (ARK) , Skyy Moore (W-MICH), Jahan Dotson (Penn St.), Alex Pierce (CIN), Christian Watson (N-DAK-ST), George Pickens (GA), John Metchie III (ALA(, Calvin Austin III (MEM) or David Bell (PUR).
  • Greg Dortch
  • Andre Baccellia