Today's question: At 32 and in a new role, how is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald viewed among the teams in the NFC West?
Nick Wagoner, St. Louis Rams: The easy answer in St. Louis is this: With unanimous respect. Every year when the Rams are preparing to play the Cardinals, Rams defenders go out of their way to pay their respects to Fitzgerald. And well they should, considering his 138 catches for 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns in 22 career games against them. Fitzgerald didn't get much done against the Rams in the final meeting between the teams in 2014, but he posted nine catches for 112 yards in the first matchup. That said, considering the slugfest nature of the Rams-Cardinals meetings last season, it's the big plays St. Louis has to worry most about now. That's not Fitzgerald's game anymore, which means the Rams will have to be more aware of Michael Floyd and John Brown moving forward.
Paul Gutierrez, San Francisco 49ers: Oh, Fitzgerald may have lost a step, but it's one that most other receivers in the division never had. The eight-time Pro Bowler has faced the 49ers 22 times in his career -- the most of any opponent, along with the Rams -- and he has had a lot of success, catching 117 passes for 1,654 yards (his most against any opponent) and 12 touchdowns (second most against any opponent). Last year, the Niners kept him in check with five catches for 65 yards and no TDs, so I guess you could say he's slowing down against them, even if the Cardinals' quarterbacks in those games were Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley. And yet, Fitzgerald is still considered a game-breaker more than a chain-mover. A new role as a slot receiver, you say? I'm sure the Niners would prefer he stay in the same silent part he played last year and not rattle his cage too much. Not with an established quarterback in Carson Palmer returning to throw passes at Fitzgerald and let him create. Besides, the 49ers are still trying to figure out who their slot corner is going to be this season.
Terry Blount, Seattle Seahawks: I know from the Seahawks' perspective, they view him with the utmost respect, especially Richard Sherman, who considers Fitzgerald a good friend. But I also think most defensive backs believe Fitzgerald's best days are behind him. He no longer strikes fear in the hearts of cornerbacks and safeties. They no longer see him as a guy who can dominate and make the spectacular plays that change the outcome of a game. Since 2010, Fitzgerald has averaged six touchdowns a year. From 2005-09, he averaged 10 a year. His average per catch in five of the past six seasons is below his career average of 13.6 yards. However, it's a bit hard to judge because Fitzgerald has suffered though miserable quarterback play in recent years.