Wide receiver Michael Floyd hauls in a deep pass against the 49ers.
Michael Floyd hasn't compiled a ton of catches yet this season – 11 in three games – but he's made them count.
Floyd is averaging a gaudy 22.9 yards per reception, with 252 yards total, as the Cardinals have finally found the deep passing game coach Bruce Arians promised when he arrived in Arizona.
Arians called deep shots often early last season, but he slowly backed off too many when the Cardinals couldn't connect often
enough. The big reason was pass protection, with an offensive line that struggled and the need to keep extra blockers on hand instead of allowing them to get into pass patterns.
"You saw at the end of last season it was very hard for us," Arians said. "If we took shots we didn't have any checkdowns or flare controls. Now we are able to get four guys, sometimes five out (into patterns) and still throw the ball down the field. It's a huge advantage for us now to take shots with checkdowns (as an option)."
There have been plenty of chances to drive it deep (and a couple of misses too, like quarterback Drew Stanton overthrowing a wide-open Jaron Brown against the 49ers). Many times it has worked thanks to Floyd, who shrugged off his huge per-catch average.
"I think we have improved tremendously," Floyd said. "It starts with the O-line. If they provide the protection, we can do a lot of things downfield and so far we have done a really good job with that."
The other side of the deep ball is often the trust the quarterback must have for his receiver. Floyd has already won a handful of jump balls with defensive backs.
"You have to have that confidence in yourself as a wide receiver anytime the ball is in the air," Floyd said. "It doesn't matter who you play."
STANTON STARTS AS PALMER MISSES PRACTICE
Quarterback Carson Palmer missed practice Friday for another treatment on his bad shoulder, and Arians announced the inevitable, that Stanton will be making his third straight start.
In his two games, Stanton has completed 32-of-62 passes for 411 yards, two touchdowns but no interceptions. Arians said he wants to see Stanton improve in the "tight" red zone.
"He was good inside the 25 last week, but inside the 10 we have to score," Arians said. "We can't go down and kick field goals in this one."
FANAIKA EXPECTED TO START
Starting right guard Paul Fanaika (knee) was upgraded to limited practice Friday and while he remains officially limited as
questionable, Arians said Fanaika should start. That means Ted Larsen will remain at left guard and Jonathan Cooper will remain on the bench.
Linebacker Glenn Carson hurt his ankle Thursday , did not practice Friday and joins Palmer as out for the game. Cornerback Patrick Peterson missed practice Friday with an illness, but Arians said he'd be fine by Sunday and Peterson is probable, just like everyone else on the Cardinals' injury report – including punter Dave Zastudil.
For the Broncos, safety Davis Bruton (ankle) and linebacker Lerentee McCray (knee) are both questionable for Sunday.
THE POSSIBILITY OF GRICE
Adding running back Marion Grice to the roster heading into the bye week was the best time it could have been, in-season. Grice has had more than a week and five practices to learn what he can of the Cardinals' offense.
Arians said it's still probably too soon to drop Grice in the lineup, but that time shouldn't be far away.
"He's still coming," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "(Running backs) coach (Stump) Mitchell has done a good job of pulling him aside, teaching him as much as he can, but he'll hopefully help us pretty soon."
Andre Ellington, while still not 100 percent, has played well as the top back but the Cardinals are still looking at how to revamp the running back rotation following the departure of Jonathan Dwyer. Goodwin had already said he saw some of Ellington's game in Grice.
"So far everything they have asked me to do is in my skill set and there isn't too much that isn't in my skill set," Grice said. "I've been able to use my hands, and get out in space. I just have to execute."
BIRTHDAY FOR B.A.
Arians famously talked about being "60 and sexy" the day the Cardinals traded for Palmer. Friday was Arians' 62nd birthday, and he was asked to self-analyze again.
"Sexier," Arians said, drawing laughter. "A little fatter and sassier too."
Images of key players for this week's opponent, the Broncos