Cardinals Scout Receiver to Replace Johnson

Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald both missed time with injuries last season. The man who stepped in to replace them, Bryant Johnson, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. The Cardinals scouted Johnson's possible replacement during Senior Bowl week, a dynamic receiver who doubles as a kick returner.

Eddie Royal (5'10", 182 lbs.) has all the measurables a team could want. He runs a 4.4-second 40 and can bench-press 390 pounds. His offensive numbers were muted by the run-heavy scheme at Virginia Tech, but he always made his presence felt on the field.

During his college career, Royal totaled 1,778 receiving yards, 12 receiving TDs and a 14.9 yards-per-catch average. He also made his mark as a return man, averaging 22.6 yards per kickoff return and 9.4 yards per punt. He scored four TDs on returns.

Royal hopes the impact of players like Devin Hester forces scouts the realize the importance of a quality return man.

"(Hester) has helped me out a lot. I owe him half of my paycheck," Royal said. "He's done a great job and he's really shown a lot of the teams how important having a dangerous return man is."

Like many Virginia Tech students, Royal was affected by last year's tragic school shooting. Going through the trying experience gave him a new appreciation for his family, friend and teammates.

"We really had an awareness to look out for each other on campus more," he said.

Royal, whose brother, Chris, plays for the Philadelphia Soul, received All-American honors as a senior and finished his career as the all-time ACC leader in punt return yards. He lacks ideal size but is elusive and tough to bring down in the open field.

For Royal, the Senior Bowl was all about exposure. He was eager to prove to scouts that his modest college numbers do not forecast a modest career in the NFL.

"Coming out of Virginia Tech, your not going to catch a lot of passes, so your not going to get the exposure that other guys get," he said.

The Cardinals scored more than 400 points last season, and adding a player like Royal goes a long way towards staying north of that number. Royal can change field position on special teams and score from any spot of the field on offense.

If Royal slips to the fifth round of the draft, he will represent too good a value for GM Rod Graves to pass over.



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