Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes a catch during Thursday's OTA.
A couple of weeks ago, Bruce Arians wasn't happy with his offense and specifically, his receivers. A few days later, the coach joked that the group had gotten better ever since he said such things.
The learning curve starts with Larry Fitzgerald, who is being moved all over the place this summer in Arians' offense. Yet Fitzgerald doesn't sound concerned. He is clicking with new quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cardinals are trying to unearth some unknowns to catch the ball and there is still – with only mandatory minicamp remaining in official summer work – time to get the passing game right.
"We all understand this is May, this is June," Fitzgerald said Thursday. "The checks don't start getting cashed until September."
Fitzgerald has made a point of not talking too much about his new QB this offseason, preferring after a season of massive frustration to not revisit what has and hasn't happened behind center in recent years. But as the final organized team activity of the
offseason ended Thursday, Fitzgerald praised the idea of Palmer in the meetings rooms and of course, on the field – where the pair continue to develop the expected relationship.
"There isn't a throw he can't make," Fitzgerald said of Palmer. "He's got great touch on intermediate passes, he can put zip on them, he can feather it in there. He's got a tremendous arm. And he has the intelligence and experience to go out and make the plays. I've seen him do it. I mean, he threw for 4,000 yards in Oakland."
Arians said he sees the same kind of burgeoning chemistry between Palmer and Fitzgerald as he did last year with veteran receiver Reggie Wayne and Andrew Luck. Wayne, by the way, rebounded from a down season to get 106 catches for 1,355 yards under Arians.
"We better have a rapport going, a good chemistry by now," Palmer said. "We've been throwing all offseason. It's something where we could play together for 15 years and it's never perfect. It's a work-in-progress."
At one point Thursday Palmer threw a pass down the seam to Fitzgerald with cornerback Jerraud Powers in pretty good coverage. Fitzgerald used his body to shield Powers on the run while going up to snare the ball.
"I threw him a ball today that maybe he and Megatron (Calvin Johnson) catch," Palmer said. "He's maybe not one of a kind, but maybe one of two of a kind."
It will take more than Fitzgerald – who has been told by the coaching staff that sometimes, he'll need to accept double coverage knowing it will help others get open – to spring the passing game. Michael Floyd is primed for a breakout season, and Andre Roberts has proven effective in the past.
Beyond that there are questions, but Arians shrugs at the idea at not having a fourth receiver, saying that last year with the Colts "we didn't have a second receiver" and they still passed for 4,000 yards. Indianapolis used young unknowns, and the Cardinals are trying to find some of those too.
With sixth-round pick Ryan Swope still sitting out, Arians mentioned the fast Robert Gill and undrafted rookie Jaron Brown out of Clemson as standing out. Arians also thought of another young player catching his eye – although he needed a reporter to help him remember Charles Hawkins' name.
"There is plenty of talent," Arians said. "It's just that nobody knows their names – including me."
By the time the checks are being cashed, Arians is sure to know everyone's name. For now, he definitely knows Fitzgerald, who plans to spearhead more work even as the minicamp brings an end to the prep in Tempe.
Fitzgerald said the receivers and quarterbacks are planning to spend some time working in Minnesota – where Fitzgerald holds his annual pre-camp work – and San Diego – because why wouldn't they? – to make sure Palmer-to-Fitz and Palmer-to-everyone-else prevents any more Arians' discontent.
"The progress we are making, that's not going to stop," Fitzgerald said. "We'll roll into training camp."