Fitzgerald Forgotten Man in Cardinals Offense

While Larry Fitzgerald has managed to reel in 17 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns this season, those numbers are rather pedestrian for the three-time Pro Bowler. Off to a 1-2 start following a 31-10 loss to Indianapolis, something is out of whack for the defending NFC Champions. One obvious factor has been the lack of involvement by Fitzgerald in the Cardinals' offense.

Through the first three games of the year, the reduced number of looks towards WR Larry Fitzgerald's side of the field has been baffling. Sure, the Arizona Cardinals boast an extremely deep group of receivers but Fitzgerald's skill set is arguably unmatched across the league. Along with success comes more attention from opposing teams but Fitzgerald is no stranger to double teams. Despite increased interest over the years, Fitzgerald has still produced All-Pro caliber numbers in three of his five career seasons.

Many teams experience some sort of Super Bowl hangover, particularly after reaching the pinnacle of the sport for the first time in franchise history. One of the most difficult aspects when coming off a campaign such as Arizona experienced a year ago is sustaining success. The Cardinals' history of losing makes it even trickier as they've been unable to maintain the momentum gathered from a historic 2008 playoff run.


Larry Fitzgerald
(Getty)

Fitzgerald's lackluster start can be attributed to several different contributing factors. QB Kurt Warner looks slow in his decision-making process and Arizona's offensive line has done little to help Warner stay comfortable in the pocket. Furthermore, Warner's increasing comfort level with backup wideouts Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban has translated to fewer chances for Fitzgerald to make plays in traffic.

Another key element missing from last season is former offensive coordinator Todd Haley. After Haley left for the Kansas City Chiefs, head coach Ken Whisenhunt assumed play-calling duties. The Cardinals usually potent offense has been subdued in two of its first three games as opposing defenses have focused primarily through the air while the team's running game is still in search of consistency.

Coming off a tremendous playoff performance a year ago many believed Fitzgerald was positioned to reach even greater heights in 2009. Fitzgerald rewrote the record books during the 2008 playoffs after accumulating 30 grabs for 546 yards and seven scores as Arizona fell just short against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, that scenario hasn't materialized and the Cardinals are in desperate need of a makeover just three weeks into the season.

With Arizona entering a bye week, there will be plenty of time to rethink its offensive strategy prior to a Week 5 showdown against the Houston Texans. Fitzgerald was the focal point of the offense last season and was a vital part of the Cardinals first winning season since 1998.

In the coming weeks, expect Fitzgerald's targets to double and his participation in the offense to be much more intensive. While it's difficult to fathom, Fitzgerald has been somewhat forgotten in the Cardinals' offensive attack thus far. As one of the premier playmakers in the NFL, there's no excuse for Fitzgerald's disappearance and Arizona must rectify the situation if it hopes to remain in the NFC West division race.


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