Florham Park, N.J. - Here it is - another challenge for the New York Jets defense. Time and time again this season, the secondary has crumbled allowing an endless stream of big plays that have crippled the team. The unit gets another chance to redeem itself on the national stage. But, it only gets more challenging Monday Night as an ageless wide receiver looms on the other side of the football.
Age is only a number for Arizona Cardinals' wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The mileage is up there but the machine is still running smooth. He is the fine wine that gets better as years pass. Thirteen years in and still moving is quite the accomplishment but to be just as effective as the wide out was several years ago, is something to marvel at.
The Jets better be ready. Arizona's number one wide receiver will be giving them 'fitz' the entire evening. Even at age 33, Larry Fitzgerald can go toe-to-toe with any defensive back the Jets may place in front of him. Darrelle Revis, Marcus Williams and Buster Skrine beware.
"He looks like the Energizer Bunny to me," said Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers. "He just keeps going and going."
Rodgers epitomized the career of Fitzgerald in two words: 'Energizer Bunny.' Last season was no fluke. While critics may have believed Fitzgerald was past his prime and would take two steps back, the receiver wound up taking three steps forward. He compiled 1,215 yards on 109 catches and nine touchdowns. It was the first time Fitzgerald totaled over 1,000 yards receiving since 2011 and close to double-digit touchdowns since 2013. He and quarterback Carson Palmer revitalized their careers together. It was not surprising to Jets head coach Todd Bowles - someone who saw a lot of Fitzgerald during his tenure in Arizona.
"He's a true professional - on and off the field," said Bowles. "He loves to play the game. He takes care of his body. Knowing Larry, you can't do anything but take your hat off to him."
Familiarity may be the only thing the Jets can hang their hats on when they face Fitzgerald Monday Night. Bowles was the defensive coordinator in Arizona and had to face Fitzgerald daily on the practice field. Even if the Jets head coach knows slight tendencies, Fitzgerald's competitiveness is still enough to cause problems in the secondary.
This season - not much has changed. In five games, Fitzgerald has 31 catches for 361 yards and five touchdowns. It has been dominance for the wide out in the early portion of the schedule. He is utilized with short throws or with the long heave. His size is a matchup problem for many cornerbacks in the league and his speed and strength should still be accounted for.
"He's crafty. When he has enough space, he'll make the catch," said cornerback Buster Skrine. "He's been doing it every year of his career. He's one of the better receivers in the game."
Even when the quarterback situation in Arizona was hazy, Fitzgerald produced on a weekly basis. He finished under five touchdowns in a season just twice in his 13-year career. It is one of the reasons why the Cardinals throw the ball as many times as the top teams in the league. With him lined up on the outside - combined with speed threat John Brown and red zone target Michael Floyd - the Cardinals offense is dangerous. Their many elements will force the Jets to play more man-to-man defense instead of a simple coverage formation.
"[Regardless of the quarterback], they'll continue to put up big numbers," said Skrine. "You can't beat that."
Do not be surprised if on the first play from scrimmage, Carson Palmer tests the Jets secondary downfield with Fitzgerald. The connection could have worked solid when the two were in their primes - but now - it is even deadlier.
Joe Barone is a staff writer at JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)null