Arizona Cardinals: Michael Floyd

TEMPE, Ariz. -- After a three-game disappearing act, Arizona Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd re-emerged Sunday with all the theatrics of a magic show.

He scored both of Arizona's touchdowns in a 14-6 win against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, giving Floyd his first career two-touchdown game.

[+] EnlargeMichael Floyd
Ross D. Franklin/AP PhotoCardinals receiver Michael Floyd elevates over Lions CB Cassius Vaughn to pull down his first of two TDs in Sunday's Week 11 win against Detroit.
"It's kind of different every single week," Floyd said. "You never know who's going to step up. You never know what play is going to make the game-ending play. But it all starts in practice for me: working hard, running all my routes right, just making sure I'm there where [quarterback] Drew [Stanton] needs me."

On his first touchdown catch, a 42-yard pass from Stanton on which he boxed out Detroit cornerback Cassius Vaughn to make the play, Floyd ran a 16-yard in on a dig route but the safety wasn't over the top, he said, so he took advantage of the open field. His second score, a 12-yard out route, came from a bunch formation to the right of Stanton, who recognized the blitz, stood in the pocket and made the throw.

He finished with just those two catches on five targets for 54 yards.

It was the right time for the Cardinals to welcome Floyd back into the offense. He had more yards Sunday than his last three games combined. Against Philadelphia in Week 8, he didn't make a catch. A week later in Dallas, Floyd had four catches for 36 yards and last week against St. Louis, he had just one catch for 11 yards.

Of his 454 yards this season -- which puts Floyd on pace for well below the 1,041 he had last season -- 252 of them came in the first three games. Since his 114 yards against San Francisco in Week 3, Floyd has caught 15 passes for 202 yards, an average of 36 yards per game.

Until Sunday, he hadn't scored a touchdown since Oct. 19 in Oakland.

"Being a wide receiver, it is frustrating not getting the ball," he said. "I go back to the Philly game when I had chances to make a play and I fell short. Since then, practice is where I want to do it and make sure I do everything right to feel good on Sundays.

"I think this week I made a big emphasis of making sure that Drew is comfortable with me and comfortable with all our wide receivers, too."

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Floyd and Stanton talked all week. That communication led to the second touchdown.

"They blitzed on that second touchdown and Drew just stood in there and took a shot for the team and threw that touchdown pass," Arians said. "We really should've had a sight adjustment over there and didn't have it communicated well enough, but it was a great play by Drew and a great play by Mike."

Floyd's found a role in this offense, but it's come at a price.

Of his 26 receptions this season, 11 have been on plays of 15 yards or longer, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They've accounted for 333 yards and three of his four touchdowns. If the big play isn't open, Floyd tends to not be a part of the offense.

"I think we're all deep-threat guys," Floyd said. "Drew gives us a chance to make a play on the ball and we expect every single time that ball is in the air to come down to us and you just make a big play for the team."
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson participated in a full practice on Thursday, basically assuring he’ll play Sunday in Dallas.

Peterson
Peterson
He was limited Wednesday, a day after passing the concussion protocol.

Safety Tony Jefferson was upgraded to limited after not practicing Wednesday because of a concussion suffered in Sunday’s win over Philadelphia but not diagnosed until Monday morning. During the open portion of practice, Jefferson worked on the kickoff coverage unit. He cleared the concussion protocol later Thursday.

Linebacker Kenny Demens (knee) was also upgraded from limited to full.

Running back Andre Ellington (foot) was limited, as was tight end Troy Niklas (ankle).

Defensive end Calais Campbell (knee), wide receiver Michael Floyd (knee) and safety Rashad Johnson (knee) were all full.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For 53 minutes, the hype was just that. Hype.

The Arizona Cardinals had talked all offseason about how this year's offense was leaps and bounds ahead of last season's. At one point leading up to Monday night's 18-17 win against San Diego, coach Bruce Arians compared the difference between 2013 and 2014 to an eighth grader sitting in a first-grade classroom.

But when the Cardinals unveiled their new-model offense, the engine barely revved. Until the winning drive late in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Carson Palmer finally kicked it into gear.

“It was the first game,” wide receiver Michael Floyd said. “It’s ups and downs. We knew that there’s going to be some bad series, some good series. We want more of the good and I think we stepped up great knowing that when they came out in the second half and scored, some offenses can just lay down like that.”

After San Diego’s Philip Rivers missed a snap from former Cardinal Rich Ohrnberger, forcing the Chargers to punt on fourth-and-22 from the Cardinals 43, Arizona came to life.

The Cardinals went 91 yards in 4 minutes, 25 seconds with Palmer using six different options -- in addition to his own two legs -- to orchestrate a drive that displayed the deep cache of weapons the Cardinals have been raving about for months.

“When you get into tight situations we know we got a receiving corps that can make plays,” Ted Ginn said. “That’s all that really mattered when we get into a dog fight like that. We know that one of the guys is going to come through and make a play, and it kinda happened today on that last drive. I believe everybody had some type of ball on that drive to keep it going, no matter if it’s first, second, third or fourth. That’s just our biggest thing: to be ready anytime.”

Palmer hit Ginn once for 4 yards, Floyd twice for 25 yards, Larry Fitzgerald once for 22 and then rookie John Brown for 13 yards on a screen pass that he turned into the winning touchdown.

“That’s what [Brown] does,” Palmer said. “He’s so shifty. It’s like somebody is controlling him with a joystick.”

Andre Ellington, who was questionable for Monday’s game because of a foot injury, added to the drive with an 18-yard run on second-and-1 and Jonathan Dwyer had one run for a yard. Palmer had the most critical run of the drive -- and maybe the game -- when he scrambled for 12 yards to convert a third down and keep the drive alive.

Despite the struggles that encompassed the first 53 minutes, the drive showed off how many options the Cardinals have added since last season.

“We’re capable of that, yes,” Arians said. “We were struggling to hear some at home, which has become a problem sometimes. We had some false starts. But that last drive was something we’re capable of doing.”

One reason it worked was because it included Palmer’s four primary receiving options -- one of which wasn’t targeted until the fourth quarter. For the first time in his career, Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted for the first three quarters of a game. Fitzgerald’s first recorded target was a running play gone wrong that led to a throw-away pass in his direction. Palmer went to Fitzgerald again to start the winning drive and again two plays after he caught the 22-yarder.

Those were all the yards Fitzgerald finished with, but they put the Cardinals inside San Diego territory. Through it all, Fitzgerald didn’t complain, Palmer said. He actually told Palmer to start running behind him.

“It was just kind of one of those games where he just doesn’t get a bunch of touches but has one of the biggest plays of the game,” Palmer said.

“Larry just comes up with big plays when we need them, like he did on that one.”

Floyd, Bishop out; Ginn to play

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
8:25
PM ET
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd isn't expected to play Saturday night in Minnesota because of a groin injury, while receiver Ted Ginn is expected on the field.

Ginn missed last weekend's game and most of this past week of practice with a knee injury suffered Aug. 7.

Recently signed linebacker Desmond Bishop also won't play against the Minnesota Vikings along with WR Teddy Williams, LB Kevin Minter, LB John Abraham, LG Jonathan Cooper, DT Bruce Gaston and T Nate Potter.

Ruled out prior to the trip were C Lyle Sendlein, S Tyrann Mathieu and NT Alameda Ta'amu.

WRs not expected to dress

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
7:48
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals will probably be without wide receivers Ted Ginn and Michael Floyd for Saturday's preseason opener against the Houston Texans.

Ginn (knee) and Floyd (groin) were listed as "not expected to dress" about 90 minutes before kickoff at University of Phoenix Stadium, along with safety Tyrann Mathieu, center Lyle Sendlein and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu. The last three were expected to miss this game. Mathieu and Ta'amu are both on PUP while Sendlein is out with a calf injury.

Ginn appeared to injure his right knee at the start of Thursday's practice while fielding punts. He walked off the field gingerly and spent the next few minutes stretching and working it out. He later returned to practice.

According to the Cardinals' depth chart, John Brown and Jaron Brown will slide up into the second and third receiver roles. Playing without two starters will shuffle the playing time and likely give receivers like Brittan Golden, Walt Powell and Dan Buckner more snaps.
Flush the Pocket will be your daily morning dose of the Arizona Cardinals. It will recap the top storyline from the previous day and give you a look at what everyone is saying locally and nationally.

Training camp may be going on but all eyes around the football world are focused on Canton, Ohio, for Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. One of the seven inductees is Aeneas Williams, who will become the first Arizona Cardinal to be enshrined.

Throughout the weekend, plenty of great writing will be done on Williams and his journey to the Hall of Fame, from growing up in New Orleans to walking on at Southern to playing for the Cardinals and Rams.

Here's a tidbit of what's out there:

From Canton, Ohio, Kent Somers of AZCentral.com writes about Aeneas Williams' whrilwind Friday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Terrance Harris of The Times-Picayune writes about the night before Williams' induction as Part 4 of a six-part series titled "Aeneas Williams: The making of Pro Football Hall of Famer." Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Howard Balzer of Fox Sports Midwest writes about the totality of Williams' career.

Jim Thomas of the Canton Repository writes about the big weekend for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune writes about Gill Byrd's impact on Williams' career.

Elliot Harison of NFL Media takes a deeper look at Williams.

 

In other news...

Bob McManaman of AZCentral.com gives a recap of Friday's practice and writes about Tyrann Mathieu's two comebacks.

Nathan Brown of AZCentral.com writes about new tackle Max Starks being a mentor to younger players.

Randy Hill of FoxSportsArizona.com writes about Michael Floyd's potential.

 

 

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 4

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
9:05
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:

• He’s been one of the talks of camp, but Michael Floyd put his offseason improvement on display Tuesday. On one pass, Floyd got a step behind cornerback Patrick Peterson for a touchdown that sailed in just beyond Peterson’s reach. Floyd then hauled in another score over cornerback Justin Bethel. Earlier Tuesday, quarterback Carson Palmer praised Floyd’s size and his ability to overpower cornerbacks, which was the case Tuesday. Bethel is listed as 6-0 and Peterson 6-1, but Floyd played taller and bigger than the 6-2, 220 pounds he’s listed as.

• Arizona got a look at a few backups that were called upon in a pinch. With RB Andre Ellington (neck) and CB Antonio Cromartie (pectoral) out Tuesday, RB Stepfan Taylor and CB Jerraud Powers were inserted into their respective first-team spots. NT Christian Tupou (groin), who was already replacing Dan Williams, was replaced by a combination of players, including Anthony McCloud.

≺ Taylor filling in for Ellington was telling in terms of the battle for the second running back job. It’s between Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer, but with head coach Bruce Arians’ decision to run Taylor with the starters, it appears that he’s leading the backup running back race. The importance of winning the second spot this year is greater than past years because of Arians’ decision to use more two-back sets.

• Arians got what he wanted when it came to adding speed to the offense. On at least two occasions, Ted Ginn and John Brown had to slow down to haul in a Carson Palmer pass. That speed could be a blessing and a curse. Last season, Palmer had a knack for slightly underthrowing receivers, forcing them to come back for passes. Ginn and Brown will have to learn how to time their runs perfectly with Palmer’s passes.

• Rookie safety Deone Bucannon secured an interception that got the crowd riled up.

• Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who Arians praised Tuesday morning for being perfect through camp, missed three kicks in row during the afternoon practice. The three he missed were end-over-end kicks, different from his regular kicks. By my count, Catanzaro went 7-for-10, missing field goals from 41, 47 and 48 yards.

• After Catanzaro came off the field, special teams coordinator Amos Jones pulled his young kicker off to the side for a short talk near a water cooler. By Catanzaro’s body language, it was clear he wasn’t happy with himself.

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 1

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
8:50
PM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • Arizona’s first day of training camp provided a few highlight-worthy moments for fans but it finished without any major newsworthy events. The practice appeared to be injury free but we’ll know more Sunday morning when Cardinals coach Bruce Arians addresses the media. Watching camp this year will be like watching a Pro Bowl practices with the likes of cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson matching up against receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Throughout Saturday, Cromartie showed no signs of a hip flexor injury, running stride for stride with Fitzgerald and denying the eight-time Pro Bowler a few catches. Saturday still featured its share of Fitzgerald catches.
  • During the first two days of media availability, offensive players have raved about how they feel “light years” ahead of last year. It showed throughout practice. Routes were clean and crisp, and quarterback Carson Palmer was hitting receivers in stride. On a few occasions, he gave individual direction before snapping the ball. There were also minimal interruptions by Arians and other coaches, a sign that the offense was executing at a higher level.
  • When safety Tyrann Mathieu emerged from the bowels of University of Phoenix Stadium, where he was going through a rehab workout, and walked onto the field about an hour into practice, the crowd gave its bigger cheer of the afternoon. The Honey Badger acknowledged it with a wave.
  • Right tackle Bobby Massie and right guard Paul Fanaika spent the entire practice working with the first team. Sunday will tell if Arians plans on rotating in Bradley Sowell at tackle and Earl Watford at guard, giving them both reps with the starters. Both lined up with the second team Saturday.
  • It was only Day 1 but some of the rookies looked like rookies in their first training camp practice. Logan Thomas began the day working ahead of Ryan Lindley as the second-string quarterback. Throughout the course of the day his accuracy declined, as some passes hit the ground short of the receiver toward the end of practice while others sailed high. The velocity on some of Thomas' passes at times was too much for some receivers to handle.
There’s a youth movement going on in Arizona, and people are starting to take notice.

In their annual list of the Top 25 NFL players under the age of 25, ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando and Draft Insider Mel Kiper included two Arizona Cardinals on this year’s list. But, in my opinion, there should've been three.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson was ranked fifth on the list, behind No. 1 Andrew Luck, No. 2 Robert Quinn, No. 3 Luke Kuechly and No. 4 Muhammad Wilkerson. Based on last year’s production, it’s a fair assessment, especially since Peterson’s return numbers have been declining each season since 2011. Sando and Kiper noted that and mentioned that “his play at cornerback has yet to become consistent. You won't find a better all-around athlete, however.”

When evaluating Peterson, Sando and Kiper rated him on future potential saying Peterson has “the size, speed, athletic ability, recovery speed and versatility to be great over the long haul.” With the decision by Arizona head coach Bruce Arians to reduce Peterson’s punt returns, Peterson will have more time to focus on becoming a better cornerback.

Floyd
At No. 23, Sando and Kiper chose wide receiver Michael Floyd. While Floyd had a breakout season in 2013 with 1,041 yards, he still flew below the radar playing for the Cardinals and in the wings of Larry Fitzgerald. An interesting question was raised in Floyd’s description: How much longer will Fitzgerald be the “unquestioned” best receiver on the Cardinals? In his shadows is Floyd, who’s entering his third season in the league. In his first year working with quarterback Carson Palmer, Floyd earned his trust quickly, especially on 50-50 balls, as Sando and Kiper noted.

Two other Cardinals were considered for the list: guard Jonathan Cooper and safety Tyrann Mathieu. Cooper has yet to play an NFL down since suffering a broken leg in last year’s preseason. But Mathieu should’ve been included on this list, in my opinion.

Despite missing the final three games because of ACL and LCL injuries, Mathieu established himself as one of the top young safeties in the league. His nose for the ball and big plays led him to be a starter for 11 of the 13 games he was healthy for. The only other free safety on the list is San Francisco’s Eric Reid and even though he played an entire season, his impact wasn’t as great as Mathieu’s. One aspect of the rankings was potential, in which Sando and Kiper included health concerns. While Mathieu's knee is a reason for concern currently, as they noted, Reid's concussions might be of bigger worry for the future.
The Arizona Cardinals' biggest key to success for the next three seasons can be summed up in one word: offense.

How the Cardinals can adapt and adjust on the offensive side of the ball will determine whether they continue to build on the foundation that coach Bruce Arians laid in 2013 or whether they regress back to the state of mediocrity.

The first step to being successful over the next three seasons is finding a long-term solution at quarterback. Current starter Carson Palmer is entering the final year of his contract because his third season voids if he remains on the roster five days after the Super Bowl. A young, steady, productive quarterback is needed to take over this team, and the question then becomes is Logan Thomas that guy? The Cardinals also need to solidify the right side of the offensive line, like they did the left side by signing tackle Jared Veldheer and drafting guard Jonathan Cooper.

Stability up front can make the offense run despite rough conditions behind it. In three years, the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd might not be wearing Cardinal red anymore. Fitzgerald is coming up on the end of his career in the next few years, and Floyd might be a free agent in the next two. The Cardinals will need to make Floyd their next No. 1 receiver and build around him to remain successful.

Running back and tight end are the two positions that are young and feature players poised to be around for the next few seasons, but, in order for the Cards to be successful through 2016, the rest of the offense needs to be stabilized and shored up.
TEMPE, Ariz. – With the first day of Cardinals' OTAs in the books, we were able to take a lot away from the 95-minute practice. Here are a five things we learned during OTAs:

1. Michael Floyd made a statement. He looked good enough to cause quarterback Carson Palmer to gush about him during his time with the media. Floyd was making hard and easy catches, and even blew by cornerback Patrick Peterson on a go-route. On one play, Floyd made an awkward catch while falling out of bounds and Palmer ran down field to tell Floyd he should step back toward the pass before making the catch.

2. Coach Bruce Arians doesn’t watch a lot of players individually during these practices. It was hard for him to talk about specific players at length because he usually evaluates them after watching the tape. It’s tough with 90 guys to hone in on a few players.

3. The majority of the snaps Tuesday were taken by Palmer and Drew Stanton on their respective fields. Both got three snaps to every one by Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas. Palmer was on the main field with the starters and veterans while Stanton worked on the rookie field.

4. Guard Jonathan Cooper saw his first significant practice action since breaking his left fibula in the Cardinals’ third preseason games last year. He’s not quite at 100 percent, Arians said, but he’s close. When asked about Cooper, Arians joked he didn’t want to jinx the left guard. Cooper played with the first team throughout practice, looking close to form.

5. Even though he was the Cardinals’ first-round pick, safety Deone Bucannon wasn’t running with the first team just yet. Tony Jefferson, entering his second season, was the strong safety with Rashad Johnson playing free safety. It’s not uncommon for a rookie to not be playing with the vets on the first day of OTAs. Last season it took Tyrann Mathieu a few practices to earn his way onto the main field.
Bruce AriansAP Photo/Ross D. FranklinArizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will get a look at his full team Tuesday when OTAs begin.
This time last year, the buzz around the Cardinals was about a new coach with a new culture and a new scheme. This year, it’s about how do the Cardinals make the playoffs?

As the Cardinals’ offseason team activities (OTAs) begin Tuesday, there’s a lot to ponder from the past year and much to speculate on going forward. The next month will begin determining the fate for a lot of players on the current 90-man roster. As Cardinals coach Bruce Arians loved saying last year, this is when they have to put it on tape.

Here are 10 observations as the Cards begin OTAs:

  1. The top three running backs are established with Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer sitting atop the depth chart, but after that is a major drop-off. As of now, there isn’t is a viable option for the fourth back, which was occupied by Alfonso Smith a season ago. He’s gone and so is Ryan Williams, leaving the fourth spot up for grabs. That running back, however, may not be on the field Tuesday.
  2. There’ll be a lot of eyes on the newcomers this offseason, such as quarterback Logan Thomas, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, safety Deone Bucannon and left tackle Jared Veldheer. But the most intriguing position battle of the offseason starts Tuesday with two returning offensive linemen at right tackle. Arizona hasn’t re-signed Eric Winston for a reason: It wants to see what Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie can do. The two were college teammates at Ole Miss but neither are the clear-cut choices to assume the starting job. There have been questions about Massie’s ability to pick up the playbook for the last few seasons and Sowell was able to hold his own at left tackle last season but there’s a reason Arians didn’t keep him there. It’s yet to be seen if he’ll fare better on the right side.
  3. Losing Karlos Dansby was a major blow to the Cardinals’ inside linebackers but it could get worse. Having Daryl Washington practice with the first team may be for naught if he’s suspended for a significant amount of time by the league for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The Cardinals are already in tryout mode with second-year linebacker Kevin Minter but if Washington is lost for more than a game, what was a strong point of the Cards’ defense will be its liability. Veteran Larry Foote may need the reps this offseason to get ready for a larger role next year but this is also a chance for an unknown inside backer to get noticed.
  4. It’s one thing for Cromartie to say his hip is better but it’s another for him to go out and show it. He’ll have the eyes of the media – although it’s not quite like New York – on him this offseason. If Cromartie’s hip isn’t an issue, he’ll be half of one of the league’s top cornerback tandems. If his right hip flexor is still hampering him during OTAs, he’ll be wise to just sit and let a young cornerback earn some time. But next up on the depth chart is the man Cromartie replaced, Jerraud Powers, who is likely itching to win back his spot.
  5. The top three wide receivers are a shoe-in. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Ted Ginn will have jobs in 2014. It’s the other eight receivers on the roster who’ll be fighting for their jobs starting Tuesday. Arians clearly likes small, speedy receives -- he drafted two -- but now he has an abundance of them on the roster and will start weeding through them this week. One or two will make the cut but the rest will left fighting for the final few spots on the roster as a gunner or a special-teams machine.
  6. What a difference a year makes. Last May, the Cardinals were as confused as ever when it came to learning Arians’ offense. This year they know the wrinkles and intricacies of his complex offense. The days of Fitzgerald and Floyd lining up in the wrong places are over. The next step can be taken, which could mean a quicker start for the Cardinals than a year ago. And the result of that could then a game or two in January.
  7. Throughout the smokescreens before and during the draft, there was one truth that rose above it all: Arizona wasn’t drafting a quarterback unless he could win a spot on the roster. After the Cardinals picked Logan Thomas, Arians made it clear the first two quarterback spots are taken. That means Ryan Lindley’s third-string job is up for grabs. He’s been lending a helping hand to Thomas but when practice gets going Tuesday, he’ll need to turn it up to show Arians that he made a mistake. That may be harder than anticipated because Logan was drafted to not get cut.
  8. One of the few players with the most to lose and the most to gain during OTAs is tight end Rob Housler. He fell short of expectations last season and never grew into the player Arians had envisioned him being. It doesn’t help Housler, cut from the receiving tight end mold, that he isn’t fond of blocking. The Cardinals went out during the offseason and added two tight ends who are tailor made to fit Arians’ two-tight end scheme. Add in Jake Ballard, who joined the team around midseason last year, and Arizona has a three-tight end rotation that could see Housler as the odd man out.
  9. Tuesday will be the first day that left guard Jonathan Cooper can take the field for since he broke his leg against San Diego in the Cardinals’ third preseason game. How much Cooper can do starting this week will be an indication of how far along in his rehab he is. If he’s practicing in full, training camp will be a sure thing. If not, then training camp may be the first time Cooper will work out at full capacity.
  10. Another offensive lineman the Cardinals are anxious to see on the field is guard Earl Watford. The second-year player feels he has a better grasp of the playbook and the offense in his second offseason. He’ll be given a chance to win the starting job over last year’s starting guard Paul Fanaika. If he does, the job may be Watford’s for the foreseeable future.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- John Brown had the plan all hashed out.

He was going to spend a year at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas getting his associate degree, then move home to Miami and try to walk on at Florida International University in order to be closer to his brother, James Walker, who was lying in a hospital bed, fighting for his life.

Besides their relation, football had been their bond. As a child, Brown, one of the Arizona Cardinals' third-round picks, would carry Walker's pads to practice. He watched his older brother on the field and wanted to be a part of the game.

Walker was shot three times in front of a Miami night club on July 4, 2010 -- once in the head and twice in the chest. About two months after the shooting Brown's plan started to unravel. In Kansas, community colleges can only have 12 out-of-state players. Brown didn't find out he was Coffeyville's 13th until the day before the first game. But instead of dropping out, he stayed in school and was allowed to practice.

The following April, nine months after the shooting, Walker died. Brown's motivation to move back home was gone, but football was still a priority.

“But when I thought about it, he passed so I was like, I just wanted to get far away," Brown said.

Armed with the memories of his brother, Brown set out to return to the field.

"It just made me a better man, just seeing the stuff I had to see with my brother put up a fight for nine months before he passed," Brown added. "It taught me a lesson that no matter how hard things get, you can't give up,” Brown said. “I thought about giving up but looking at what he did, there was no way I could give up and if I made it through that I believe I can make it through anything.”

Fortunately, a small Division II school 77 miles away from Coffeyville had its eyes on Brown.

Pitt State was recruiting Brown, all 5-foot-10 and 179 pounds of him, while he was practicing. But even that wasn't part of the plan.

Brown played his freshman season of college at Mars Hill University, a small Division II school in the middle of the North Carolina mountains. He was forced to sit out his sophomore season there after his ACT score was flagged, which is how he ended up at Coffeyville. The plan all along was for Brown to return to Mars Hill, but when Pitt State offered a full scholarship, it was an opportunity Brown wasn't about to pass up.

“I was out for two years,” Brown said. “I was just amped up to play and show the guys what I could do and do it for my brother. I told the guys when I first got in, like two months before the season, I was like, ‘The first time I touch the ball I'm going to score.'”

Brown wasn't kidding.

On his first play as a Gorilla in 2011, Brown returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown.

That play kicked off a record-breaking career for Brown. In three years, he had 185 receptions for 3,387 yards and 34 touchdowns -- all Pitt State records. His touchdowns and receiving yards placed Brown fifth all-time in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association's record books. Brown also returned three punts and two kicks for touchdowns at Pitt State, while rushing for six more.

And the Gorillas won the 2011 Division II national championship on Brown's heels.

He parlayed his collegiate career into a spot at the East-West Shrine Game which landed him a spot at the NFL scouting combine. That's where he shined, running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash.

It was fast enough to draw the attention of Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who likes small, speed receivers.

“Fits the mold that B.A. was looking for that he has talked to me about since the day that he has got here: fast, explosive, T.Y. Hilton-type of player, guy who can take the top off the defense, has dual return ability in the punt- and kick-return game,” Arizona general manager Steve Keim said of Brown. “He has been phenomenal since the season was over. We went and worked him out privately and a great workout for us.”

After liking what they saw, Keim and Arians used the Cardinals' second third-round pick to draft Brown, who'll likely be a fourth receiver and back-up kick and punt returner.

Of all the adjustments he's making as a professional football player, speed isn't one of them.

“I'm just a person who plays fast,” Brown said. “When I got in the East-West Shrine Game, I showed them that I can play with speed. I think it will be faster here but I think I will adjust real quick.”

After just a few practices, Brown said his speed hasn't been tested but he gets the feeling the quarterbacks are aware of it.

“I think Carson Palmer kind of knows that I have speed,” Brown said.

It took six years and three schools for Brown to reach the NFL. But with his speed and his brother in mind, Brown will make up for how long it took.

“I most definitely appreciate it,” Brown said. “I learn from (wide receivers) Michael (Floyd) and (Larry) Fitzgerald every time they go up, just to learn and see if I can do what those guys do.

“It's actually crazy, but you can't be too excited. You just have to do what you can do and focus on helping the team.”
For the seven days leading up to Thursday's first round of the NFL draft, ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss will rank the team's five best draft picks from each round -- seventh to first -- dating back 1994, when the NFL draft went to its current seven-round format.

1. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, 2004 -- A sure-fire Hall of Famer, Fitzgerald is widely considered the best player in franchise history.

2. Simeon Rice, DE, 1996 -- He quickly established himself as one of the top ends in the NFL and continued on a torrid pace throughout his career while taking home four All-Pro nods and three Pro Bowl selections.

3. Patrick Peterson, CB, 2011 -- In his first three seasons, Peterson has been named to the Pro Bowl all three years and an All-Pro twice, while becoming one of the best match-up corners in the league.

4. Michael Floyd, WR, 2012 -- In just his second season Floyd became a 1,000-yard receiver and a formidable option across from Larry Fitzgerald.

5. David Boston, WR, 1999 -- Boston's best years in the NFL were spent in Arizona, where he became a Pro Bowl receiver.
With the Arizona Cardinals' remaining cap space steady the last couple of weeks, it’s a good time to look at who’s taking up the largest portion of the Cardinals’ cap space. According to the most recent numbers by ESPN Stats & Information, Arizona’s cap space this week is $4,522,983, which changed slightly from last week because of the release of LaRon Byrd and Dan Giordano.

SPONSORED HEADLINES