When Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was let go and Byron Leftwich was promoted, there was an emphasis on getting the ball in the hands of David Johnson but also future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. There wasn’t just one reason why McCoy was let go; there was a variety of reasons. However, a big reason was the lack of creativity. Some may blame that on the fact that the team moved to rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. However, it’s not like how it used to be when rookie quarterbacks were asked to manage the game. Rookie quarterbacks often find success early in their career. Leftwich, who around the league seems to be getting some buzz to be a future head coach, will try and open the offense up.
The Cardinals were only able to muster 321 yards of total offense in Sunday’s win over the 49ers, which still is underwhelming in today’s NFL, but it was a step in the right direction. A rookie quarterback’s best friend a lot of times is a big tight end who can work the middle of the field but for Rosen, “Larry Legend,” as they call him in Arizona, was just that on Sunday. Fitzgerald got a season-high 12 targets in the win while hauling in eight for 102 yards and a touchdown. Two of his eight catches came on the game-winning drive. He also caught the two-point conversion after the touchdown to rookie receiver Christian Kirk.
No. 11 even showed some emotion after the two-point try as he spiked the ball after hauling in the pass from Rosen. After the game, he was disappointed in himself for spiking the ball because his son Devin chose not to attend the game.
“I was carrying that around all day,” Fitzgerald said of his son’s snub, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “So when I get in there, I kind of let it out. So all the kids that were watching, I’m sorry, I set a bad example today.”
That should come off as no surprise to anyone. Fitzgerald has always been one to hand the ball to the official after he scores, and he is class personified on and off the field. Too often this season, he has been quiet for this offense and even at the age of 35, he can still produce. Fitzgerald can still get it done working the middle of the field. Bruce Arians, his former head coach, got the future Hall of Famer to buy into working in the slot.
According to Pro Football Focus, Fitzgerald has compiled most of his snaps out of the slot this year. It has been that way for a few years now. When McCoy was leading this offense, it was very conservative and predictable. The Cardinals are not an offensive juggernaut, and they especially have problems along the offensive line. But they do have some talented skill players. Under McCoy, those playmakers were not used enough. Look for Leftwich to utilize his weapons in a multitude of ways in the second half of the year.
The Cardinals are heading into the bye with a 2-6 record but they have to be feeling pretty good, all things considered, after the fourth-quarter comeback. Leftwich, a first-time offensive coordinator, will get more comfortable in his role, and it’s safe to expect that Larry Fitzgerald will put up numbers just as he did this past Sunday.