Monday, November 26, 2012
Kolb factor: Fitzgerald's targets by QB
By Mike Sando
Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals' offense suffered through another rough day Sunday, particularly in the second half.
Their 31-17 home defeat to St. Louis extended the Cardinals' losing streak to seven games.
Quarterback Ryan Lindley completed only 3 of 12 passes when targeting Fitzgerald. The Rams picked off three of the other nine attempts.
Fitzgerald's numbers were already sagging this season. They're taking an even harder hit since Lindley replaced John Skelton at quarterback in Week 11.
The Cardinals previously found ways to involve Fitzgerald even when their offense struggled. Perhaps that will happen again as Lindley, a rookie, gains experience. For now, though, it's a struggle. Lindley has completed 4 of 17 passes to Fitzgerald with three picks, compared to 36 of 55 passes with one interception when targeting other players.
As the first chart suggests, welcoming back quarterback Kevin Kolb from injury could represent a first step toward restoring Fitzgerald's production. Kolb is the only Cardinals quarterback completing a higher percentage of passes to Fitzgerald than to other targets. He is the only one with more touchdown passes than interceptions when targeting Fitzgerald.
Kolb, sidelined since suffering a rib injury against Buffalo in Week 6, has been more productive overall than Skelton and Lindley have been. That is reflected in the players' raw passing stats and in their Total QBR scores: 38.0 for Kolb, 19.3 for Skelton and 10.4 for Lindley. Fifty is average. Tom Brady leads the NFL at 81.6.
Kolb, Skelton and Lindley have faced evolving sets of circumstances. That makes it tough to compare their production across the board. But there's little doubt a healthy Kolb would help the offense unless Lindley can build upon his relatively strong first half Sunday.
The Cardinals aren't sure when Kolb will be healthy enough to play. They are proceeding toward Week 13 under the assumption Lindley will make his second career start when Arizona visits the New York Jets, coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Monday.
Lindley is just getting started. Kolb and Skelton have much more experience in the offense and with Fitzgerald.
The chart below shows Fitzgerald's catch percentages per target over the past five seasons. The percentage has dropped significantly since Kurt Warner retired following the 2009 season.
Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for the charting data.