Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians likes to employ a downfield passing attack as his main source of offensive scheme, and he had exactly the right personnel while with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts to do it. And by personnel, I mean quarterback, because Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger are both big, athletic quarterbacks who can extend plays and make excellent throws downfield. With the Cardinals, though, not only did Arians not have the luxury of having a great, strong-armed QB, because Carson Palmer at the age of 34 is not a strong-armed QB. Despite Palmer’s physical limitations, Arians and the Cardinals were still able to keep the opposition uneasy thanks to the work of a certain second-year receiver who impressed everyone by breaking out and playing his best football through an AC sprain.
Palmer finished the season with a respectable 11.8 yards per completion, and he took deep shots a decent amount. But the interesting thing is that only one wide receiver on the team averaged more yards per reception than Palmer’s 11.8 yards per completion, and this wideout’s yards per reception average was significantly higher than 11.8.
Michael Floyd was a touted prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft coming out of Notre Dame, but he didn’t have the rookie campaign that matched his talent and excellent training camp. In 2013, however, Floyd delivered the goods, and big thanks for that goes to better quarterback play from Palmer vs. the QB carousel led by John Skelton in 2012. This season Floyd hauled in 66 passes (16 less than Larry Fitzgerald), and he led the Cardinals in receiving yards (yes, more than Fitz) with 1,054 for a big 1,00o-yard season.
That’s the way to make a statement, and what really impressed me about Floyd’s season is that he managed to average a whopping 16 yards per reception. That was around one of the top ten totals, and he was a bona fide deep threat for the Cardinals. Arians loves having a receiver who can stretch the field vertically, and that’s exactly what Floyd was able to do for this offense. Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, and Andre Ellington were all safety valve options, whereas Floyd was the playmaker over-the-top, and I don’t think the Cardinals could have even envisioned Floyd becoming this kind of a weapon even when they drafted him.
With a whopping 9.3 yards per target last season, Michael Floyd had a huge effect on the production of the entire offense, and the scary thing is that he’s only going to be better next year (and healthier, too, since you can’t forget about the AC sprain). For as good as Larry Fitzgerald is, it might not be far-fetched to think that Floyd could soon overtake him as the best receiver on the Cardinals. I’m not bold enough to make that call, but it’s something worth watching. Floyd went deep often last season, and the scary part is that despite averaging around five yards more per reception than Roberts and Fitzgerald, his catch rate was smack in between their catch rates (Roberts did not put up good numbers).
I may be exaggerating Floyd’s impact stretching the field for the Cardinals, but I know I’m not overrating his overall impact on the offense; getting over 1,000 yards on 113 targets is not an easy feat.