Will Fitzgerald Continue To Produce For Cardinals?
Eric Roberts 2018-02-23 in NFL Picks
Larry Fitzgerald has opted to extend his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, signing a one-year deal to remain with the club. The 34-year-old will play his 18th season with the NFC West outfit after deciding not to retire after the 2017 campaign.
Fitzgerald will surely become a Hall of Fame when he eventually does call time on his career. He has been named to the Pro Bowl 11 times, while the wideout was also named a First-Team All-Pro in 2008.
He has established himself as one of the most dominant players at his positon in NFL history. The 34-year-old has the lead the NFL in receptions and touchdowns twice, while last season he moved into third on all-time list of receiving yards. Even a mediocre campaign will see him surpass Terrell Owens in second place, with the Cardinals man within 400 yards of the milestone.
The wide receiver’s achievements have been made even more remarkable due to the fact that he has not always benefitted from playing with high-quality quarterbacks. His seasons with Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer, resulted in his best campaigns in the NFL. However, more often than not Fitzgerald has suffered through a number of poor signal-callers that limited his production, although he still managed to put up impressive statistics.
Fitzgerald could face the same situation once again this term. The retirement of Palmer has left a void at the quarterback position for Arizona, while he is also working with a new head coach – Steve Wilks – after Bruce Arians opted to call time on his career. As a result, he faces a challenge to record his fourth 1,000-yard campaign on the bounce.
Fitzgerald had an outstanding two years of production at Pittsburgh in his college career, and was rightfully snapped up by the Cardinals with the third pick in the 2004 Draft. He had a solid rookie season notching eight touchdowns in his 16 matches. The wideout became the youngest player in NFL history to catch two scores in a single game at the 21 years and 110 days, highlighting his potential.
Following Warner’s arrival in Arizona, he took a huge step forward in his second term, breaking the 1,000-yard and 100-reception barrier. The Cardinals selected Matt Leinart in the 2006 Draft as their quarterback of the future. However, he struggled in his rookie term after being thrown into the line-up ahead of Warner, which resulted in a downgrade in Fitzgerald’s form and the end of Dennis Green’s tenure in Arizona.
With Warner restored to the starting position in the 2007 term by Ken Whisenhunt, the wideout was back to his best. He boasted eerily similar statistics to his sophomore term, with 10 touchdowns and 1,409 receiving yards. The 2008 term was to be his breakout campaign as he and Warner connected 12 times in the endzone and a career-high 1,431 receiving yards. Whisenhunt’s men reached the post-season with Fitzgerald and Warner guiding them through the Wildcard and Divisional Rounds before defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game.
Warner retired after the 2009 campaign following another heart-breaking playoff loss. Arizona struggled to fill the void of his departure as Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Brian Hoyer failed to rise to the occasion. Although there were issues at the quarterback position, Fitzgerald remained productive, recording over 1,000 receiving yards in the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The 2012 campaign would be one of the worst of his career due to ineffective play from the quarterback position. Whisenhunt paid the price for the Cardinals’ 5-11 campaign, with Arians arriving to replace him.
Arians and general manager Steve Keim made the move to sign Palmer to ease their woes at the quarterback position. Although the veteran connected well with Fitzgerald, he had issues with interceptions, throwing 22 in the 2013 season, with Arizona posting a 10-6 record. Injury limited his playing time in the 2014, although the club still reached the playoffs. However, they were decimated by the Carolina Panthers as Ryan Lindley was thrust into the starting role.
The 2015 campaign was a different story and was almost reminiscent of the Cardinals’ run in 2008. Palmer and Fitzgerald were outstanding during the regular season. The wideout caught a career-high 109 passes for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. Arians’ men won the NFC West before Fitzgerald put on a special show against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
After Aaron Rodgers had led the Packers with an incredible Hail Mary pass at the end of regulation to Jeff Janis. Fitzgerald ended the game on the first possession in overtime with a 75-yard surge through the defense before collecting a five-yard touchdown to secure the win. However, once again it was all for nothing as the Panthers steamrolled the Cardinals in the NFC title match.
Injury and Uncertain Future
The 2016 season was a lost campaign, although Fitzgerald continued to remain at the peak of his powers, with yet another 1,000-yard campaign and six touchdowns. Palmer’s injury woes returned last term, resulting in another lost season for the club. The wideout caught 109 passes and notched his third season on the bounce with 1,000 yards along with six touchdowns.
Kirk Cousins could be the answer if Arizona are willing to pay a heavy price. Nick Foles could be available through the trade market, despite leading the Eagles to their Super Bowl triumph. Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is also a possibility to add a veteran presence.
The draft could be the most realistic option, with Arizona boasting the 15th-overall pick. However, it will not provide the solution to see Fitzgerald off in style that he deserves. Still take the 34-year-old to score over six touchdowns at 83/1001.83-1200.83-1.200.83 with Bovada with whoever starts at quarterback, although given his age and uncertainty over the position take the under on 1,000 receiving yards at 83/1001.83-1200.83-1.200.83 . Fitzgerald needs quality, but unfortunately for him the elusive Super Bowl dream appears to be over.
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Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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