There were times, with both guys lower on the depth chart, where Skelton-to-Roberts was taking place at training camp practices.
Then came Saturday night, when Skelton found Roberts five times against the Cowboys for the receiver’s first 100-yard game (110 all told), including a 74-yard touchdown bomb that suddenly has brought Roberts to the forefront.
“Starting the relationship from there to where it is now,” Skelton said, “there is still room to grow.”
Skelton’s story is the improbable one, to go from where he was near the end of training camp – essentially the fourth quarterback out of four – to now. Roberts, however, went through a crucial transformation of his own. The Cardinals were always going to find a way to work Skelton into the mix, knowing his learning curve.
Roberts’ growing pains seemed much worse, to the point where many – except maybe coach Ken Whisenhunt – wondered if he was going to make the team or survive earlier this season.
Roberts acknowledged “I didn’t have as good of a training camp or preseason as I wanted.” His confidence level? “Definitely lower.”
Whisenhunt said he never thought Roberts lost confidence, only that the third-round pick was frustrated.
“Anytime you are a draft pick, especially one of those higher ones, there’s always pressure and expectations and he didn’t feel like he was living up to those,” Whisenhunt said. “Other players are looking at you. It’s a tough deal.”
As for whether he ever thought drafting Roberts was a mistake, Whisenhunt was blunt. “No.”
Whisenhunt can’t recall the game, but he said there was one in which Roberts made a difficult third-down catch, one that Whisenhunt and the team noticed. Roberts also made a beautiful 30-yard catch-and-run in Minnesota for his first NFL touchdown, a brief peek into what the Cards thought he could do.
But his 20-reception rookie year has been more miss than hit. He had six of those receptions (for only 52 yards) in the blowout loss in Kansas City, and had only one catch in the previous three games before going against Dallas.
On a night in which Skelton rarely looked at
“It’s not really a weight lifted, it just helps me build confidence knowing I can do it, and knowing the coaches think I can do it,” Roberts said.
Skelton sees a lot of parallels between he and Roberts, from their small-school pedigree (Roberts went to The Citadel, Skelton Fordham) to each man’s penchant for not getting too emotional and staying relatively quiet.
Both have come a long way from the sun-scorched fields of last summer.
“I feel like we have been together, working together this summer, struggling a little early,” Roberts said. “Now we’re being able to contribute.”