With the Arizona Cardinals' loss in the playoffs still fresh in their memories, it’s time to review the 2014 season, while also previewing 2015. Over the next 11 installments, I’ll look back, and then ahead, at every position for the Cardinals.
2014 Review: The momentum was already built heading into 2014. Larry Fitzgerald was coming off his best season since 2011. Michael Floyd had surpassed 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. And the receiving corps got a jolt when Arizona drafted speedy John Brown out of small Pittsburg State. But instead of building off 2013, Fitzgerald and Floyd regressed statistically because their roles were strictly defined -- Fitzgerald was the quarterback’s underneath option, when they decided to look his way, and Floyd was the deep sideline choice. Fitzgerald had 103 targets, his fewest since 2004. Brown was the most targeted receiver on third down with 42 catches compared to 36 for Fitzgerald and 24 for Floyd. Fitzgerald suffered a knee injury against Detroit and missed the next two games. Jaron Brown filled Fitzgerald’s role but dropped an easy touchdown in Seattle in Week 12 that could’ve changed the course of the game. Ted Ginn was seldom used, catching 14 of his 26 targets for 190 yards. But last season was a chance for Floyd to break out and prove he’s capable of being Fitzgerald’s replacement, should Fitzgerald not return next season. By not catching a touchdown without Fitzgerald on the field, Floyd just boosted Fitzgerald’s worth.
2015 Preview: Which leads the Cardinals into next season. The majority of the attention on the Cardinals this offseason will be focused on what happens to Fitzgerald, who’s due $16.25 million in 2015 and carries a $23.6 million cap hit. Both numbers are extremely high for a 31-year-old who’ll be 32 by kickoff in Week 1 and had his worst statistical season since his rookie year. The Cardinals appear committed to keeping Fitzgerald but does he want to take a pay cut? That’ll be answered in the next couple of months. Without Fitzgerald, Arizona will have to find a versatile No. 1 wide receiver, which Fitzgerald, despite the play-calling restraints on him, essentially was. Floyd could be that option, but Arizona may look for another receiver in the draft who’ll better fit Fitzgerald’s specifications. While Brown has the speed to be a productive receiver in the NFL, the Cardinals will need to find another bigger receiver to round out their trio, whether through free agency or the draft. All the receivers are under contract for next season. If Fitzgerald stays, his role will have to be addressed. He has the best hands on the roster and isn’t used as often early in game as he should be, nor is he the Cardinals' primary third-down receiver which may be a reason they’re 16th in third-down percentage.
Up next: Outside linebackers