Gained: Larry Fitzgerald Bruce Arians
won’t be the one throwing Larry Fitzgerald
the ball. But he’ll decide who does, and whoeever it is, you can bet they’ll do it more often and more competently than Larry
did in 2012.
An avowed pass master, Arians had this to say at his introductory press conference
: "We have six home runs on the play sheet every week, and we're not leaving any bullets unused.” The man loves to throw, specifically to his No. 1 receiver. Santonio Holmes
and Mike Wallace
both blossomed under his charge in Pittsburgh, while Reggie Wayne
came back from the dead to post a 106/1,355/5 line under a rookie quarterback during his age-34 season.
Arians knows what it takes to get the most out of his top wideouts, and has already vowed to move Fitzgerald all over the formation until he finds what makes him tick. "As a receiver, you can’t hand it to them, you have to throw it to them," Arians said of Fitz. "When I first met with (Wayne, he) had been on the left side for 10 years. The first day of spring I put him over there on the right, and he looked like he had palsy. I said, ‘It’ll come. You have to retrain your body here. Wait until I put you in the slot.’ There was buy-in.”
Who’s at quarterback will matter most, but the Cardinals finally have a coach capable of identifying the right one. The QB talent may still be lacking in 2013, but the wherewithal — and deep balls — won’t be. Throw in line play that has nowhere to go but up and some on-the-rise pass-catching talent (Rob Housler
and Michael Floyd
) to help deflect defensive attention, and things are back on the upswing for one of the league’s most gifted players. Lost: Ahmad Bradshaw Ahmad Bradshaw
is still only 27 years old (in March). In the “real world,” he’d be an infant in the job market, perhaps settling into his first long-term gig. In the NFL? He’s 1,053 years old.
That’s how many times he’s touched the ball since coming into the league in 2007. Throw in a pair of bad feet and an operation to “replace a smaller screw with a larger one,” and you have a back who’s out on the street even though he posted his 1,000-yard campaign in three years last season, and has averaged 4.6 yards per carry for his career.
Bradshaw will play in 2013 — at least he thinks so
— but his days of being the chair in a committee backfield are over. Maybe he’ll end up a goal-line back, giving himself some RB3 value. But his feet will be an ever present worry, while his upside will be capped by role, health and however many “NFL years” his new coach decides to add to his 1,053-year-old body. Gained: David Wilson
Benefitting from Bradshaw’s downfall will be Wilson, a first-round pick who was anything but coddled last season. After an opening night fumble — and subsequent tears — landed him in the doghouse, Wilson touched the ball just 17 more times before the Giants’ Week 11 bye.
But he was phased into the offense thereafter, and responded by averaging 5.1 yards per carry over his final 53 totes. That doesn’t take into account his special teams fireworks, as he averaged 26.9 yards on a league-high 57 kick returns.
Wilson was in over his head in pass protection, and that will be a concern heading into 2013. But the Giants didn’t use the No. 31 pick in last year’s draft with the intention of letting Wilson gather cobwebs, and they certainly wouldn’t have released Bradshaw if they weren’t comfortable with him having a major role.
Wilson may well find himself in a committee where Andre Brown
monopolizes goal-line carries, but there’s no question he’s going to lead the G-Men in touches. We already know Wilson has the talent to make a major impact in fantasy leagues, now he should have the role. Lost: Titus Young
Let’s be clear: Young’s fantasy value was next to nil even before the offseason. Now? It’s a smoking crater. That’s because at just 22 years of age and less than two years removed from being the No. 44 pick of the 2011 draft, it’s possible Young has played his final down.
Second chances are common bordering on perfunctory in the NFL. Thirds? Ask Chad Ochocinco. Young has youth and talent working in his favor, but the fact that he couldn’t remain on Jeff Fisher
’s roster for more than 10 days is an extremely bad sign for his NFL future. Fisher, after all, is the one who claimed Randy Moss
after he was sent packing twice in the same season.
A player who has just 81 career catches yet thinks he’s better than Calvin Johnson
has serious issues, and it’s quite possible no team will be willing to deal with them from here on out, seam-stretching speed or not.