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The Number Two Debate

Posted Apr 22, 2012

Cards could look at another receiver, but they may not have to

Larry Fitzgerald (top left) is a proven star but does he need someone like (clockwise) Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd or Baylor's Kendall Wright to help?

When Charley Casserly was general manager for the Washington Redskins, he found himself often in conversations with defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon about various aspects of the game.

In today’s pass-happy NFL, one of Petitbon’s defensive rules still resonates with Casserly.

“They always felt, if the team had one (good) receiver, they could take that guy out of the game, regardless of how good he was,” said Casserly, now an analyst for the NFL Network (@CharleyCasserly on Twitter).

The necessity of a high-profile second pass catcher is open for debate. The Saints don’t really even have a true No. 1 superstar wideout, instead leaning on Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham to lead up an army of receivers that succeed with Drew Brees’ passes. The Texans and Lions, with Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson, respectively, had good years in 2011 and fed their studs without notable No. 2s.

The Cardinals went to a Super Bowl with Anquan Boldin alongside Larry Fitzgerald, but one of the reasons the Cards were eventually comfortable with dealing Boldin was the success Fitzgerald and the passing game had even in games Boldin missed with injury.

Andre Roberts and Early Doucet, third-round picks in 2010 and 2008, respectively, play Fitzgerald’s sidekicks these days. Their play provides plenty of fodder for discussion, including the possibility of adding other receiver. The Cards did look into some wide receivers in free agency, and there has been plenty of speculation they would consider taking someone like Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd in the first round among their various choices.

Both Roberts and Doucet had some moments of success last season. Their ability to grab the attention of opposing defensive coordinators is debatable. With receivers, it also can become a chicken-or-the-egg argument: Would Roberts and Doucet do better with more consistent quarterback play?

Coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t say if he thought the receivers would improve after quarterback Kevin Kolb had a full offseason to better his game, but he did say Roberts, Doucet and a handful of other potential pass catchers like Stephen Williams, Isaiah Williams and Jaymar Johnson would improve with summer work.

“Everybody’s not Larry,” Whisenhunt said. “You can’t just throw it in the general direction, like you can with Larry, and he sucks it in like a vacuum cleaner.”

It’s also possible the Cards can get some improvement at tight end -- Rob Housler is an intriguing prospect as a pass catcher – to become that second main target. The Patriots, with Rob Gronkowski, certainly have made that work with Wes Welker once Randy Moss was moved out of town.

Whisenhunt said the receiving depth in the draft continues to improve with how much teams throw the ball in today’s college game. Sometimes, seeking depth is a smarter route to take. Certainly, Boldin exceeded all expectations after being taken in the second round. Go back to Fitzgerald’s year – the list of first-round receivers after him provided average play at best: Lee Evans, Michael Clayton, Michael Jenkins, Rashaun Woods.

This year’s “star” is Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, who is much more Boldin than Fitzgerald in terms of both size and skill. Floyd has potential but again is more of a physical target. Blackmon, barring a stunning development, will be gone by the time the Cards pick. Floyd could be there.

“Michael Floyd is a big, physical guy that’s a natural hand snatcher and one of the best if not the best wide receiver blocker in the draft,” NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said.

Baylor’s Kendall Wright also has gained some attention, as has Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, but both have flaws that keep them a distant third and fourth among many analysts’ rankings.  

The Giants won a Super Bowl after Victor Cruz emerged as a star wideout behind Hakeem Nicks, but was that Cruz or was it Eli Manning? Was Welker’s emergence in New England because he wasn’t used right in Miami, or because he played with Tom Brady?

Just who must you have at number two?

“It’s crucial to have that second guy,” Casserly said.

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