NFC West: Andre Roberts

Catching up with Fitz

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1
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I caught up with Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald very early Saturday morning – at least early here in Arizona. Fitzgerald was in Columbus, Ohio, for the esteemed Arnold Sports Festival. We talked about the Cardinals while he was there to talk about sports nutrition and EAS.
    Larry Fitzgerald
    Fitzgerald
  • By Fitzgerald restructuring his deal, it gave the Cardinals relief for the 2014 offseason. But that’s about it. By converting $11.75 million of his salary into a signing bonus in early February, Fitzgerald’s cap number increased for the remainder of his contract, making it likely he won’t be with the team in 2015 without another restructured deal. But Fitzgerald isn’t thinking about the future.

    “I don’t know what the future holds,” Fitzgerald said. “I can control what happens this year. Go for 1,300, 1,400 [receiving yards], 13 touchdowns, 1,000 catches in a Cardinals uniform. A large part of that is out of my control.

    “You don’t control your destiny.

    “That’s all I focus on, is next year.”
  • Fitzgerald said he tried to give advice to longtime friend and teammate Andre Roberts, who will be a free agent on March 11, but he couldn’t talk about free agency so much. See, Fitzgerald has never been a free agent.He told Roberts not to let his emotions direct his decisions, that it has to be what’s best for himself and his family.

    “I want him to be in Arizona. This is a business,” Fitzgerald said. “I want him to be compensated for his ability, for which he has a lot of. I want to help him out as best I can.”
  • Fitzgerald didn’t see one specific area the Cardinals could improve on, rather he felt improvements could be made throughout the team.

    “We played in the toughest division in football,” Fitzgerald said. “I think everybody can improve in every facet. Everybody needs to improve to compete in the tough NFC West division.”
  • Fitzgerald’s personal sentiments toward possibly having an openly gay player in the locker room are shared by many of his teammates. Asked if the Cards are ready to have Michael Samas a potential teammate, Fitzgerald didn’t think his teammates put much thought into Sam being openly gay.

    “All that matters is, can he get the quarterback to the ground,” Fitzgerald said. “You got all kinds of characters in the locker room.”
Cardinals wide receiver Andre Roberts seems to accept the fact that there aren't enough passes in Arizona's playbook to be shared with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.

In an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday, Roberts said the Cardinals haven't offered him a new contract for 2014 or beyond.

“I don't know if there's necessarily enough balls to go around out here,” Roberts said. “So, I don't know how that's going to work out but they haven't offered me anything yet. I expect them to give me an offer here before free agency or right at free agency. So we'll see.”

Arizona hasn't begun negotiating with many of its free agents, so Roberts isn't alone. But the Cardinals may consider his $1.3 million salary in 2013, the last season of his four-year rookie contract, too much for a receiver who only caught 2.7 passes per game.

Clearly frustrated, Roberts has been good at keeping his cool and his emotions under wraps. He didn't go off during the season or widely express his unhappiness with being the third receiver in coach Bruce Arians' two-receiver offense.

And Roberts hopes staying poised throughout the season will help him if he hits the open market.

“I think it does say good bit about me as a person,” Roberts said. “Complaining about it wasn't going to help me at all. Obviously, I was frustrated being a competitor and being a receiver wanting the ball every play, wanting to be in there every play. You can't really complain about it. Michael (Floyd)'s a really good receiver and obviously everybody knows who Larry Fitzgerald is. I just have to play my role.

“Going into this year I knew some of the situations I was going to have to deal with.”

That meant moving from the Cardinals' second receiver to their third, and basically out of the offense. He started the season hot, catching eight passes for 97 yards against St. Louis and then his numbers quickly dropped, including a four-game stretch from Weeks 3-6 where he had 6 yards, 6 yards, 0 yards and 5 yards, respectively.

Overall, Roberts caught 43 passes for 471 yards and two touchdowns in 2013, his lowest totals since his rookie season in 2010.

He played 576 snaps last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, significantly less than Fitzgerald's 954 and Floyd's 891. Roberts' season high was 51 in Week 1 and his low was 20 in Week 16 at Seattle.

Last season wasn't the ideal situation for Roberts heading into free agency, although he did benefit from having a consistent quarterback in Carson Palmer for the first time in his career.

At 26, Roberts is looking for a four or five-year deal, he said. But he won't be against taking a one-year deal to prove his worth.

“That's definitely crossed my mind taking that one-year deal and trying to improve my stats and show the league what I'm able to do,” Roberts said. “I'd love to be in a great opportunity with a quarterback in a situation where I can play that No. 2 role and boost my stats a little bit and show what I can do.

“I'm pretty excited,” he added. “I have a little bit of a good nervousness not knowing exactly where I'm going to be. I'm pretty excited about the whole free-agency process. I'm looking forward to seeing what's coming for the rest of my career.”

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 9
Preseason Power Ranking: 26

Biggest surprise: No one expected Arizona to struggle like it did throughout the first half of the season because an offensive mastermind, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, was in charge. Likewise, nobody expected the Cardinals to go on a tear through the final nine, going 7-2 to finish 10-6. A 10-win season for the Cardinals isn't to be ignored. They're tough to come by, but Arians was able to accomplish it in his first season, which nobody expected. He proved himself as a head coach at 61 and showed how great his offense is when a team can learn and execute it.

Biggest disappointment: Arians was dead set on riding running back Rashard Mendenhall this season with rookie Andre Ellington as his backup. And while Mendenhall was serviceable, it wasn't a successful move. Mendenhall finished with 687 yards on 217 carries, an average of 3.2 yards per carry -- just 35 more than Ellington on 99 more carries. Partially to blame for Mendenhall underachieving was a turf-toe injury that limited him for most of the season, but when he was healthy, he showed his true speed in only two games. Other than that, he struggled to break through the line as often as the Cardinals needed him to. He's not the future for Arizona at running back. That belongs to Ellington.

Biggest need: Everyone thinks the most obvious need is a left tackle, but with how the offensive line played during the last eight games, it may be the least of the Cardinals' worries. Arizona needs a big, fast safety who can defend tight ends. The 29 tight ends who faced the Cardinals this season accounted for 1,247 yards and 17 touchdowns on 98 receptions. The yards accounted for 30.7 percent of the total by opposing receivers and the 98 receptions were 26.7 percent of the catches made by opponents. But the most telling stat, and the difference between wins and losses, are the 17 touchdowns by opposing tight ends, which are 58.6 percent of the 29 total allowed by the Cardinals' secondary.

Team MVP: There were a handful of Cardinals who had good seasons on both sides of the ball, but there was one who really kept the pulse of the team alive. Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby was shunned by Miami and took a huge pay cut to come to Arizona, and he proved to everyone in the league that, at age 32, he still had it. He was second in the NFL with 114 solo tackles, 6.5 sacks -- his most since his eight in 2006 -- and a career-high four interceptions. But his ability to impact a top-six defense near the line of scrimmage, sideline-to-sideline and then dropping back in coverage made him the most important player on the team.

FTP: Ballard waiting for playing time

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
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Flush the Pocket will be your daily morning dose of the Arizona Cardinals. It'll recap the top storyline from the previous day and give you a look at what everyone is saying locally and nationally.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jake Ballard's tenure in Arizona started out better and faster than even he could have imagined.

Just six days after he was signed on Nov. 4, Ballard played 22 snaps in his first game since Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. But since then his appearances have dropped each game. He played 15 snaps at Jacksonville, including one that featured a 29-yard catch, and 12 against Indianapolis before seeing the field for just four snaps Sunday in Philadelphia.

While it's better than sitting on his couch, where he spent the first eight weeks of the season looking for a team to pick him up after he rehabbed his ACL, there hasn't been a real reason for the decrease in his snaps.

“I'm going to do what the coaches are going to ask me to do and whatever I can do to help the team,” Ballard said. “We've been playing pretty well with what they had going. (TE) Robby (Housler) and (TE) Jim (Dray) are doing great jobs. I'm just going to bide my time and wait until I get a chance to do whatever they ask me to do, I guess.”

Ballard has a better feeling for the playbook and the scheme, he said. He also feels like the coaching staff is starting to trust him more.

When he'll start getting a bigger role is still to be determined, and it may not happen Sunday against the Rams.

“We'll wait and see,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “See what his role is in the game plan.”

In other news…

Kent Somers of AZCentral.com writes about Andre Roberts’ decreased role.

Craig Morgan of FoxSportsArizona.com writes about the Cards’ need for an NFC West win.

Kyle Odegard of AZCardinals.com writes about Bradley Sowell’s challenge.

WR Floyd questionable but will play

November, 15, 2013
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd is expecting to play a full role against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he said Friday.

Floyd
Floyd was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a sprained A/C joint in his right shoulder but he practiced Thursday and Friday.

“Michael should be ready to go,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “(He) looks pretty solid.”

Arians won’t limit Floyd’s snaps, saying “if you’re good to go, you’re good to go.” Floyd seconded his coach, saying he'll be playing at full tilt.

“If I was going to hold anything back, I probably wouldn’t play,” Floyd said.

During the open portion of practice Friday, Floyd was catching passes above his shoulders with full extension.

With Floyd in the lineup, Andre Roberts may be relegated to the role he’s been playing for the past few games. He stepped up when Floyd went down and will be on alert should Floyd not be able to play at full strength, but Roberts will be the odd man out.

When Larry Fitzgerald played with an injured hamstring, he didn’t perform to the level he’s accustomed to. The same fate might be awaiting Floyd.

But Floyd wasn’t about to pull himself out of Sunday’s game because of his shoulder.

“I felt if my shoulder was going in a positive way I would play,” Floyd said. “I never said to myself that I’m ruling myself out. There’s a whole week to get treatment (so) no I didn’t think that.”
Flush the Pocket will be your daily morning dose of the Arizona Cardinals. It’ll recap the top storyline from the previous day and give you a look at what everyone is saying locally and nationally.

TEMPE, Ariz. – If Michael Floyd can’t play Sunday in Jacksonville, the Cardinals will be “a little bit slim” at wide receiver, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said during his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Floyd sprained the AC joint in his right shoulder in the first quarter of the Cardinals’ 27-24 win over the Houston Texans. On Monday, Arians said Floyd is day-to-day.

If Floyd can’t play, rookie Jaron Brown would take his place in the lineup, meaning the Cardinals would be sending out Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Brown and most likely Teddy Williams. Brittan Golden is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

Arians said Brown played “extremely well.” Roberts also stepped up with 72 yards, and Arians said the Cardinals “never really miss a beat when Andre’s in there.” But with Williams, who played cornerback last season in Indianapolis, the Cardinals have a project that’s not finished. They’re still teaching him how to play receiver, Arians added.

The Cardinals lost receiver Kerry Taylor last week when he was signed off the practice squad by Jacksonville.

A few other notes from Arians’ radio spot:
  • Arians is still surprised that recently signed tight end Jake Ballard played 22 snaps, but once the Cardinals started running the ball, they began using plays that were very similar, which helped Ballard adjust. “We believe if a guy can help us, we’ll find a role for him and don’t overload him,” Arians said. “Let him go out and let him play with his instincts while we’re teaching him on our techniques.”
  • Arians feels it helps the Cardinals’ preparations knowing that the Jaguars have won a game. When his team watches tape, Arians said they see a team that has a stout defense and a solid run game, and a squad that’s clearly capable of winning games. “I don’t think we’re full of ourselves to the point where we’re going to think we’re better than anybody unless we show up on Sunday,” Arians said with a chuckle. “Of course, I got to hammer them while [I] keep hitting them in the head about it.”

Tuesdays are always slow around Cardinals headquarters, but here are the top headlines:

With Floyd down, Roberts steps up

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Andre Roberts knew this season would be different.

He realized new head coach Bruce Arians ran a two-tight-end set, which meant one receiver would be left out. He knew that would be him.

Roberts
As the season -- which began with Roberts getting 97 receiving yards against the St. Louis Rams -- unfolded, Roberts’ impact became smaller by the week. He had four straight games with six or fewer receiving yards, including none against Carolina.

But Roberts continued to prepare every week as if he was going to start. It paid off Sunday, in the Cardinals' 27-24 win against the Houston Texans.

“I’m human. Of course, it’s frustrating,” Roberts said. “Coming off last year, playing a lot and not playing a lot this year, or getting as many touches this year, I should say -- of course it’s frustrating.

“I know my role and I have to play my role, and in games like this I have to step up when Mike's out and produce.”

Receiver Michael Floyd went down midway through the first half with an A/C joint sprain in his right shoulder, Arians said. He expects Floyd back next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Roberts picked up any slack left by Floyd’s absence.

He finished with 72 yards and a touchdown on five catches.

It was Robert’s first touchdown, a 19-yard double move that found him about four yards behind Houston linebacker Joe Mays, since Week 7 of last season.

“Finally, for me,” Roberts said. “It felt like forever. I got it done.”

Had it not been for Floyd’s injury, Roberts would’ve likely had another pedestrian game. He had a 19-yard catch to start the Cardinals’ second drive, but that most likely would’ve been the chunk of his yards.

Instead Roberts showed regardless of how small of a role he has, when his number gets called, he can step up.

“That is what you do when your opportunity arises,” Arians said. “You make the best of it.”

Roberts’ touchdown catch gave the Cardinals a 27-17 lead with 6:47 left, and it renewed the Cardinals confidence in him as another option.

“When you lose a guy like Mike, who is such an integral part of our offense, Andre comes in and knows his job,” quarterback Carson Palmer said, “blocks his guys in the running game in our four-minute offense and made some really nice plays to get the ball in his hands, too.”

Locker Room Buzz: Arizona Cardinals

November, 10, 2013
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observed in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals' 27-24 win against the Houston Texans.

Ellington
Surprise, surprise: Rookie running back Andre Ellington said coach Bruce Arians surprised him Monday with plans for the Wildcat. Ellington had run it before in college, so he was used to playing behind center, but he said his arm isn’t good enough to throw passes.

Whislin’ Dixie: Arians said he thought three whistles were blown before running back Rashard Mendenhall fumbled late in the fourth quarter. And he's not the only one. Another offensive player said he thought the play was whistled dead before Texas defensive end J.J. Watt stripped Mendenhall.

Never out of it: A reporter began a question to Andre Roberts by informing the wide receiver that at 5-4 the Cardinals were now in the playoff hunt. Roberts didn’t miss a beat with his reponse: “Yeah, I didn’t know we were out of the playoff hunt.”

Bean counters: Veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby dropped two more interceptions Sunday, and his teammates took notice. He's had a handful throughout the season, and after every one, he gets a good ribbing. After the Houston game, Larry Fitzgerald smiled and laughed a little before telling the media that he's definitely counting up Dansby's drops.

Upon Further Review: Cardinals Week 7

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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A review of four hot issues from the Arizona Cardinals' 34-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Passing by: When the Cardinals did find opportunities to throw the ball Thursday, their options included two familiar faces. Tight end Rob Housler caught all seven of his targets for 53 yards. And after starting the game with three quick catches, Andre Roberts wasn’t targeted again until the second half, but he finished with five catches for 33 yards. In all, quarterback Carson Palmer completed passes to nine receivers including cornerback Patrick Peterson. Michael Floyd had a team-high 71 yards on six receptions.

[+] EnlargeJohn Abraham and Russell Wilson
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsVeteran LB John Abraham's playing time and productivity have recently picked up for the Cardinals.
Sack sighting: As if the Cardinals’ defense wasn’t good enough already, another dimension came to life Thursday night. Linebacker John Abraham got his first two sacks of the season. He came into this season as the NFL’s active sack leader with 122. With Abraham finding a groove from the outside, the Cardinals now have another way to get to the quarterback. And with the middle being plugged by Dan Williams and Alameda Ta’amu, having Abraham off the edge could continue to create problems for offenses. Abraham was pleased with his performance, especially since his two sacks caused fumbles (one recovered by the Cardinals), but losing put a damper on his two-sack day.

Not a sack party: In one game, the Cardinals increased their sacks-allowed by more than 50 percent. They entered Thursday allowing 13, but four in the last three games, a steady improvement from the nine allowed in the first three. But against Seattle, Arizona gave up seven, giving them 20 for the season. After seven games last season, the Cardinals had given up 28 sacks. Eight Seahawks accounted for the sacks. Seattle had 16 heading into Thursday night.

Wake-up call: The Cardinals’ defense didn’t seem to wake up until early in the second quarter when it forced the Seahawks into a turnover on downs after stopping them at the Arizona 43-yard line on fourth-and-1. Then it was like the Cardinals’ alarm clock went off. On Seattle’s next possession, Arizona linebacker Matt Shaughnessy strip-sacked Russell Wilson and Cards defensive end Calais Campbell recovered. Arizona continued to rub the sleep out of its eyes with another strip-sack of Wilson but the Seahawks recovered the fumble. The pressure the Cards’ defense applied kept the offense in the game. Twice the defense set the Cardinals’ offense up in prime position to score: once at the Seattle 3-yard line after Shaughnessy's strip-sack and the other at the Seattle 15 after Abraham’s strip-sack.

Locker Room Buzz: Arizona Cardinals

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observed in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals34-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

No QB considered: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians never considered replacing quarterback Carson Palmer despite two interceptions, mainly because Arians didn’t think the interceptions were entirely Palmer’s fault. The first, Arians contended, was an “obvious pass interference” while the second was a poor decision.

Sowell
Taking the heat: Left tackle Bradley Sowell didn’t shy away from questions about his rough outing. He sat in front of his locker and answered everything thrown his way. The consensus was that when the Cardinals were forced to pass, Seattle was able to rear back and bring the pressure on Sowell without regret.

As it comes: Wide receiver Andre Roberts was targeted three times in the first quarter and then not again until late in the game, but he wouldn’t complain. Roberts said that even though, as a receiver, he wants the ball on every possession, he’s content with whatever comes his way.

No sleep until a win: Palmer doesn’t expect to sleep as he dissects the loss and replays every decision, good and bad, all night.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Four yards isn't much in football.

It's a dump pass to the running back, a bootleg by the quarterback, a slant out of the slot. Twenty-four running backs are averaging at least that this season.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
AP Photo/Ben MargotCorey Lemonier's sack of Carson Palmer for a safety was just the first consequence of a delay of game penalty one play earlier.
But then again, four yards is a lot.

Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, four measly yards changed the course of the Arizona Cardinals' fate. Four yards turned into two points, which turned into an insurmountable deficit.

The Cardinals found out how one small play, one penalty early in a game can hold an unrelenting grip on them for an entire contest.

The penalty

Arizona's drive with just more than 11 minutes in the second quarter began with the Cardinals holding a 7-6 lead and quarterback Carson Palmer a yard deep in his own end zone. Two quick runs gave the Cards a little breathing room at their 8. It was time to throw the ball. But on third-and-3, Palmer took a little too long adjusting the formation, calling receiver Andre Roberts into a quick motion. That extra step is what cost the Cards.

Palmer snapped the ball a second after the play clock hit :00. Back judge Scott Helverson threw the flag. Referee Scott Green announced the penalty, marking the ball back half the distance to the goal line.

Third-and-3 turned into third-and-7 from the Arizona 4.

The play

Niners rookie linebacker Corey Lemonier lined up two yards back from the line of scrimmage and about a yard to the outside of left tackle Bradley Sowell. Palmer, again a yard deep in his end zone, this time in the shotgun, dropped back to pass. After three steps, Lemonier had blown by Sowell and brought Palmer down.

Safety.

The Cardinals trailed 8-7.

The result

On the ensuing free kick, Arizona punter Dave Zastudil gave the Cardinals' defense the type of room it likes to work with. San Francisco started its drive on its own 29 but on the Niners' second play, quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit tight end Vernon Davis for a 61-yard touchdown.

So what could've been anything from a long touchdown drive to a three-and-out that would've allowed Zastudil to dictate field position turned into a nine-point swing in 45 seconds.

49ers 15, Cardinals 7.

The comeback attempt

For the rest of the game, the Cardinals played catch-up, trying to overcome both big deficits -- eight points -- and small -- one and two. All because of the safety sack, which happened because of the penalty.

Arizona pulled within 15-14 right after the 49ers scored. But San Francisco had an answer, responding with another touchdown at the two-minute warning to hold a 22-14 lead going into halftime.

Every decision by coach Bruce Arians was dictated by that penalty from the moment Lemonier sacked Palmer.

The decision

The Cardinals' first drive of the third quarter was a combination of runs and passes that ate yards and clock. It was capped with a 10-yard touchdown on a corner route by wide receiver Michael Floyd, whom Palmer hit with a beautiful pass off his heels.

San Francisco 22, Arizona 20.

But instead of sending kicker Jay Feely out for the extra point, Arians opted to go for two. Actually, he didn't just decide to go for the two-point conversion, he opted for a trick play on top of it. Palmer tossed to cornerback Patrick Peterson, who circled back toward the sideline he started on. If Peterson had thrown it early, he had Larry Fitzgerald wide open. But Peterson held it too long and everyone was covered. After the game, the Niners said they prepared for the play. Arians said game flow dictated the decision to go for two.

The conversion failed. Arizona still trailed 22-20 with 8:17 left in the third quarter.

The effect

The significance of this play could be seen immediately, but it was magnified later in the game when the Niners went up by nine, a two-possession game. If the Cardinals had kicked the extra point, that would've been a one-possession game, and the pressure wouldn't have been as great to play catch-up. Instead of chasing touchdowns, Arizona could've played for field goals.

No penalty means no safety. No penalty means the Cardinals could've held on to a lead during a drive that could've ended with them ahead 14-6, and the whole game changes. No penalty means the Cardinals don't need to go for two. No safety means the Cardinals could run the ball late and avoid costly fumbles.

No penalty means the Cardinals could win in San Francisco.

All because of four yards.
Andre Roberts had 97 yards on eight catches while surrendering his body in the season opener at the St. Louis Rams. Roberts' performance that day showed what the Arizona Cardinals' offense could be: A devastating passing attack in which the third wide receiver had almost 100 yards.

But Roberts was getting passes that would normally been reserved for tight end Rob Housler had he been healthy. Housler was out the first two weeks of the season recovering from an ankle injury. Roberts got his chance and made the most of it.

Then his opportunities began to dissipate. He only had three catches in Week 2 for 36 yards, then one each in Weeks 3 and 4. In Week 5, Roberts did not have a catch and was targeted just once.

As Roberts' touches dropped, the Cardinals' offense began to slow down.

“He's played more outside receiver with Robbie back,” coach Bruce Arians said. “So that's going to probably affect his numbers and is something we'll look at.”

Of Roberts' 210 snaps this season, 92 have been from the left or right wide receiver position, 59 have been from the slot, and 27 have been from the inside and 27 from the outside slot when three receivers bunch next to the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The farther Roberts has moved toward the sideline, the lower his numbers have gone. He has long been the Cardinals' slot receiver, quick and willing to lay his body out, but this year he has been moving around, like his fellow receivers, in Arians' new offense. He has essentially played out of position and it has shown.

The statistics show that the Cardinals' offense is better without Roberts on the field.

Roberts and Housler have shared the field for 68 plays since the tight end returned on Sept. 22, but with Housler's workload increasing the last two weeks, he's been taking most of Roberts' passes. Here is how the Arizona offense has performed over the course of the season and the past two games with and without Roberts.

“I think we've tried to get other guys the ball,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Now that Robbie has come back, we have tried to call his number a couple of times.

“I expect [Roberts] to prepare this week and be ready to go in there. It's the type of offense where you don't know who it's going to be. It's not always going to be Larry [Fitzgerald] catching the ball. It's not always going to be [Mike] Floyd. Mike has had a number of opportunities. It just depends on how people are going to defend us."

Even though the statistics say the Cardinals offense improves without Roberts on the field, Arizona's performance has not shown that. The Cardinals' overall and passing yards have decreased in every game except against Tampa Bay in Week 4. Palmer threw for 187 yards against New Orleans and 175 against Carolina. At Tampa Bay, he had 248.

On Tuesday, Arians said the Cardinals ffense has deteriorated since the St. Louis game -- the same one in which Roberts had a major impact. Coincidence?

Here's a look at Palmer's numbers to Roberts compared to the rest of the receivers over the season and the past two games.

The numbers are skewed because Roberts was targeted just three times in the last two games, but his numbers were better when looked at through all five games. He was clearly effective, connecting on more than half his targets from Palmer. With Housler struggling to find a rhythm with the quarterback -- Housler dropped the only pass thrown his way Sunday -- Roberts may find a place in this week's offense.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians isn’t big on excuses, but he did offer a possible explanation for part of the Cardinals’ recent offensive woes.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Leading into the games against the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saint, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald barely practiced, if at all. To fill his void, the Cardinals rearranged their receivers, lining up Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Jaron Brown and then Kerry Taylor at positions they might not normally have played had Fitzgerald been healthy.

And on practice went, with Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer working with that foursome, learning their tendencies and movements from various routes -- only to have Fitzgerald play both Sundays. It wasn’t a conducive situation to a relatively new offense learning how to flow.

But this week could be different. Fitzgerald’s hamstring has apparently healed, and he practiced all week.

“We lost him on Wednesday (Sept. 11),” Arians said on national radio this week. “And then he played in the game. Well, in the meantime we shuffled guys around in case he wasn’t going to play. Carson saw those guys in those positions, and then Larry comes back and plays and everybody’s in a different spot. The same thing happened last week.

“He wasn’t able to practice until Friday (before New Orleans). You never know [if he is going] to make it. And then he was healthy Friday. We got everybody back in the other spots where they belonged and he got one day of practice. I think that’s an excuse, but it does have some validity. When you look at the tape, a little hesitation is all it takes for a quarterback.”

Fitzgerald had 33 yards in the Cardinals’ win against the Lions, a game that saw Taylor emerge as an unexpected contributor. He was promoted from the practice squad a day before the game, and finished with 40 yards on three catches.

Despite not practicing until Friday before the Saints game, Fitzgerald had 64 yards on five receptions in a 31-7 loss.

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said it shouldn’t matter who is lined up, but it does.

“It’s tough when you’re not sure if you’re No. 1 guy is going to be able to play,” Palmer said. “And you don’t practice and you’re thinking you might play and you’re not sure, and you get to Sunday and everything’s great and you get to play and you lose out on those reps.

“It gets a little muddied I guess, when you lose your guy and all of a sudden he’s there on Sunday.”

Palmer won’t have to worry this week. Despite being listed as probable, Fitzgerald practiced all week.
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It’s the story of a star receiver matching up against a star cornerback.

And for the first time in a while, it doesn’t involve the Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson.

Sunday’s Arizona-Tampa Bay Buccaneers clash will feature a titanic battle from within, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald lining up across from Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis. This will be the second time the two University of Pittsburgh products have faced each other during the regular season.

Revis
Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
In their last meeting, a 56-35 Cardinals' loss to the New York Jets in Week 4 of the 2008 season, Fitzgerald had 122 yards on eight receptions when Revis was on the field at the same time, according to ESPN Stats and Research. Revis had the last laugh when he intercepted a Kurt Warner pass intended for Fitzgerald late in the game.

They squared off in the 2012 Pro Bowl, when Fitzgerald caught a touchdown past Revis.

“Darrelle is playing at an elite level, as always. I don’t see any difference in his play,” said Fitzgerald, referring to Revis’ recovery from an ACL that kept him out of last year’s Cardinals-Jets game.

Both men play for these types of matchups. But Bucs coach Greg Schiano was careful to not tip his hand. He wouldn’t reveal if Revis will defend Fitzgerald the entire game, a stark contrast from Peterson, who publicly admitted his plan to guard Detroit Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson on every play possible two weeks ago.

Schiano would only go as far as saying “there’ll be times he’s matched up on Larry.”

Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan stayed in line with Schiano’s message but did reveal a little about the Fitzgerald-Revis matchup.

“That’s exactly why you have a guy like that, to cover other teams’ top receiver and receivers,” Sheridan said. “And [Arizona] has a couple of them for sure.”

Whether Tampa Bay single or double covers Fitzgerald is yet to be seen, but it could open the field for Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd, both of whom have learned to play off Fitzgerald’s coverage. With Fitzgerald hampered by a hamstring injury the last two games, the Lions and New Orleans Saints were both able to key in on Roberts and Floyd, but with Fitzgerald healthy again, teams have to pick their poison.

And Revis would prefer a healthy poison.

"I’m excited he’s healthy and I’m excited he’s back [from injury],” Revis said. “So it’s going to be fun.”
Patrick Peterson and Mike WilliamsGetty ImagesMike Williams will be called on to help jump-start Tampa Bay's offense, while Patrick Peterson will be charged with helping to keep him in check.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the only NFL team practicing in the Tampa Bay area this week.

The Arizona Cardinals are practicing at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., as they get ready for Sunday’s game.

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas talk about Sunday’s game.

Yasinskas: Josh, I know IMG has great facilities. The Buccaneers used them during the lockout, and the Carolina Panthers worked out there last year to avoid the congestion from the Democratic National Convention before playing the Bucs. But why did the Cardinals elect to come east early?

Weinfuss: Having just adjusted to the two-hour time difference in New Orleans, Bruce Arians didn’t want his players’ bodies to get totally out of whack going back to Pacific time (technically, Arizona is on Mountain time, but the state doesn’t change its clocks when the rest of the country does) and then five days later fly cross-country to the East Coast, another three hours ahead. I’m tired from thinking about it. This way, the Cardinals can adjust their body clocks to playing what would be a 10 a.m. home game in Arizona. We’ll see whether it works. There’s a pretty significant contingent inside the locker room that's not a fan of this, but those players might be after they realize what their bodies would have gone through. And then there’s playing in the Florida humidity, which takes more than a day or two to adapt to. In Arizona, it’s a dry heat (yeah, I know, everyone doubts it, but it really is), and the Cards neither practice nor play outside, so the added time in the elements could help.

Speaking of elements, is the Bucs' locker room in as much disarray right now as the perception makes people believe?

Yasinskas: It might be in even more disarray than people realize. Wednesday's news that the Bucs are benching quarterback Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon was just more evidence of how much dysfunction is going on with this team. Freeman and coach Greg Schiano never were firmly on the same page, and Freeman's fate was sealed the moment Schiano used a third-round draft pick on Glennon in April. But the fact that Schiano now is going with "his guy" isn't going to instantly solve all the problems. Freeman is a popular figure in the locker room, and some teammates might not agree with his benching. There also have been multiple reports about players not liking Schiano's militaristic style. The Bucs have denied those reports, but I think there's something to them. I believe that where there's smoke, there's fire.

Speaking of coaching styles, it’s early in the Arians era, but what is his persona and how has he been received by the players?

Weinfuss: He’s a no-nonsense type of guy, and the players love it. Well, maybe they loved it. Having a lackluster offense and starting 1-2 wasn’t what this team projected out of Arians. There haven’t been any signs of the players losing faith in their coach. They all raved about him during organized team activities, minicamp and training camp. The players appreciated his candidness with them. If they ever want to know where they stand, he’ll tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Whether they like it or not.

He has been there for only three games, but is the Darrelle Revis acquisition working out and how has he changed the Bucs' defense?

Yasinskas: Revis has been everything the Bucs hoped for. They brought him in to fix a defense that led the league in passing yards allowed last season, and the early results have been good. Revis is the kind of player who makes those around him better, and his arrival really has helped strong safety Mark Barron. I’d imagine the Bucs will put Revis on Larry Fitzgerald for most -- or all -- of this game.

If Revis can neutralize Fitzgerald, do the Cardinals have enough other offensive weapons to win?

Weinfuss: That’s the $10,000 question. The short answer is yes, they do. The long answer is only if the other weapons -- most notably receivers Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts -- are not double-teamed. If they are and Revis can shut down Fitzgerald, it could be a long day for Arizona’s offense. But Arians is a smart enough offensive mind, so I’m sure he has accounted for this. Expect tight end Rob Housler to play an integral role Sunday, and look for the Cardinals’ stable of running backs -- Rashard Mendenhall, Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor -- to come out of the backfield for passes and to create mismatches.

Aside from Revis, how has the rest of Tampa Bay’s defense looked?

Yasinskas: The defense has been a bright spot for Tampa Bay. In addition to the secondary, linebackers Mason Foster and Lavonte David, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are off to very good starts. But the Patriots were able to run the ball against the Bucs, and Tampa Bay had trouble with the tight ends against the Jets and the Saints. The Bucs could be susceptible if Arizona can get some production from the running game or its tight ends.

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