Tag Archives: Drew Brees

Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd and other Desert Mysteries

floyd-and-nazca2

Veteran Cardinals scribe Darren Urban writes that receiver Michael Floyd’s season “will go down as one of the greatest mysteries in recent Cardinals history.”  There are other desert mysteries, like the large sliding stones of “The Racetrack” in Death Valley, or the massive Nazca Lines–the Pre-Colombian geoglyphs of monkeys and spiders and hummingbirds etched into the desert sands of Southern Peru, which can only be comprehended from the air. Arizona fans would settle for simply solving the Floyd Enigma.

After his consecutive sparkling seasons at Notre Dame, the Cardinals selected Floyd 13th overall in the 2012 draft. He and Larry Fitzgerald were to be the double-barreled weapon flanking an Arizona touchdown machine, but too often this year Floyd has misfired. From 65 catches and over 1,000 yards in 2013, Floyd has regressed to 28 grabs and 410 yards this season. Most troubling are the dropped balls and the difficulty in creating separation, and now he has a balky hamstring.

But Floyd has not struggled alone. After 1,003 yards receiving and seven touchdowns last year, speedy wideout John “Smokey” Brown has managed just 399 yards and one touchdown this season, due largely to being slowed by leg pain from battling the Sickle cell trait. Without the disruptive zip and deep threat that Brown can provide, routes have been shorter and defensive coverage has been more focused on Fitzgerald, who has had to scuffle to get open enough for QB Carson Palmer to try to thread balls into tight windows. And due to injuries and shuffling of the offensive line, Palmer has had less time to throw. Less time, less separation and dropped balls are not a potent cocktail for NFL offensive success.

This was not in Arizona’s plans. In the glow of the off-season following a 13-3 record, there were visions of Palmer and Fitzgerald hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this year amid a swirl of confetti, bathed in a cascade of cheers, savoring a moment on the mountaintop before the twilight of their careers was snuffed out by the talents and desires of younger men. Instead there are retirement murmurs and the Cardinals sit at 4-6-1, needing a winning streak like Secretariat’s just to make the playoffs with five games left.

Any run for the postseason must begin this afternoon at 1:25 p.m. PST, when the Cardinals square off against the visiting Redskins. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is the second biggest story to come out of Washington since November 8th. At 28 years old and in a contract year, Cousins has quietly emerged as one of the best QBs in the NFL. He’s thrown for over 3,500 yards, and he’s just 47 yards from surpassing Drew Brees for the NFL lead. He’s also just a tick behind Brees with 322 passing yards per game, and has one of the best QB ratings in the league. The ‘Skins are 6-4-1 despite losing their first two games, and Cousins dropped 449 passing yards on Dallas last week. Sporting News writes that we should not be surprised if Cousins becomes the highest paid player in the game next year.

The Cardinals’ defense has performed admirably, and they know they must stop Cousins today and operate at peak efficiency the rest of season. This stat leaps off the page: they’ve allowed the fewest yards per game in the NFL. Impressive, but a closer examination reveals that Arizona has allowed 20.7 points per game, which ranks a more pedestrian 11th. The Cardinals’ offense is averaging just over 22 points per game, and even the math-impaired can discern that at this rate, every win will be hard-earned.

Whatever the result today, with 19 yards Larry Fitzgerald would move into the NFL’s top ten in all-time receiving yards—and with eight catches, he would stand third in receptions. Those close to Larry will tell you he’d gladly trade those personal milestones for a win. Same goes for the gathered throng in University of Phoenix Stadium today. With a loss, the Cardinals’ playoff hopes would die along with the late afternoon light in the Sonoran desert.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

NFL Around The League: 10 Takeaways From Week 8

1.  The Raiders (4-3) and Rams (4-3) are above .500, and, for them, that’s worth celebrating.  The last time the Rams finished a season above .500 was 2003, 12 years ago.  Still, that’s one year better than the Raiders, who have not finished above .500 since 2002.

2.  If your team had a bye in Week 8, you’re lucky because injuries decimated teams this week.  Le’veon Bell and Steve Smith’s seasons are over (much like their teams, though).  Matt Forte suffered a knee injury, and Keenan Allen had a major kidney injury; however, both of their teams are in the race for the first overall pick, too.  Who steps in for them?

3.  The AFC South continues its ineptitude.  Will they be sending a five- or six-win team to the playoffs?  The sad thing is that there is going to be a 10- to 11-win team that gets kicked out of the playoffs while the AFC South sends utter mediocrity into the playoffs.

4.  The Vikings (5-2) are the most surprising team in the league.  The last time they went 5-2, in 2012, they ended up going 10-6 and making it to the playoffs, where they narrowly lost, 10-7, against division rival Packers.  Steffon Diggs’ game-tying 40-yard touchdown was incredible, and, if he can continue to produce so effectively, they will have a great dual-threat to complement Adrian Peterson.

5.  Colin Kaepernick will be benched this week for Blaine Gabbert and, in the future, playing for another team next season.  Which team, you ask?  I’m going to make a bold prediction and guess the Philadelphia Eagles.  Sam Bradford has been underwhelming, has one year in his contract right now, and the Eagles have gone halfway through the season with no extension.  Moreover, Kaepernick would finally be the dual-threat quarterback Chip Kelly has been sorely lacking while trying to implement his offensive scheme from college to the NFL.  In addition, wouldn’t Bradford be an upgrade from Gabbert?

6.  Do the Giants and Saints have the worst secondaries in the league?  The teams scored 101 points combined, with 840 yards passing, and Manning (6) and Brees (7) combined for thirteen passing touchdowns.  Drew Brees threw for 511 yards!

7.  Phillip Rivers lost pretty much every wide receiver on his team.  Now, Malcolm Floyd is probably the best option he has against a terrible Bears secondary, but it’s so hard to tell what he is going to do this week.  Regardless, Rivers is still on pace to set a season record in passing yards, and it seems that only Tom Brady stands as his major challenge this year.  The team really needs to find a running back soon.

8.  Matt Cassel is not the quarterback you want in the last two minutes of a game when you need a game-winning touchdown drive.  Come to think of it, though, Cassel really isn’t the quarterback you want in any situation.  Someone needs to tell him that, on fourth down with the last few seconds running off the clock, and you’re down 12-13, you should at least try to throw the ball up in the air and get something instead of a sack.  The Cowboys offense produced just four net yards in the fourth quarter.

9.  Denver’s defense is the best in the league.  They’ve been keeping a sub-par Peyton Manning in games all season.  However, this week, they faced their toughest test and held Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards passing!  The Packer’s leading receiver, Randal Cobb, managed just 27 yards.  Packers running backs gained 47 yards on 16 carries, and Eddie Lacy was the leading rusher with 38 yards.  In total, Green Bay produced only 140 yards against 500 for the Broncos.

10. The Jets are going to see one of their best starts to a season go down the drain due to injuries at the quarterback position.  Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith suffered major injuries on Sunday.

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