Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd hauls in a 31-yard reception against the Rams last weekend.
The Cardinals were pinned deep in their own territory, the Rams having already pulled within a touchdown, and it was third down.
Michael Floyd sprinted down the left sideline, on a play where he said "there is probably a 95 percent chance the ball is being thrown to you." The wide receiver leaped to high-point the ball, hauling it in for a 31-yard catch over Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins to change the tenor of the game.
The Cardinals later finished off a 98-yard touchdown drive to take control. And Floyd, who had his third 100-yard game in his
last four outings, showed on one play the reasons he is so valuable to a team threatening a deep playoff run.
"I think the sky's the limit for him," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "I think what you want to see is improvement, and I think he's gotten better from last year. I still think he's got a way to go and he'll get there. He can be as good as any receiver in this league."
Floyd's statistics aren't going to measure up to Larry Fitzgerald or John Brown this season, not after a hand injury sidelined him almost all of training camp and slowed his first month of the season, and then a hamstring set him back for a couple of games late last month.
But he has, in the words of General Manager Steve Keim, "been excellent," showing Keim the maturation he and the organization had been looking for since Floyd arrived as a first-round pick in 2012.
In some ways, it was the same maturation process that Fitzgerald went through a decade ago, yet another way to compare the two even if such comparisons aren't fair to Floyd. Both players are from Minnesota – Fitzgerald knew Floyd as Floyd came up through the high school ranks – and the leaping catch in St. Louis was a downfield exploit that used to be Fitzgerald's domain for the Cards.
Floyd and Fitzgerald are friends. But Floyd notes, "we're two different people, we look at life differently."
"Media and fans, they love Larry," Floyd said. "It's not, 'I've gotta compete to be the same kind of person as Larry.' On the field, I want to do better because that's what I strive to be. The main thing is getting that ring on our finger and winning the NFC West."
Tuesday, as the media crowded around Fitzgerald's locker for the veteran's weekly Q-n-A, Fitzgerald told Floyd to take a turn.
Floyd smiled, declining the offer.
"If I was getting talked to by the media every single day about whatever, I wouldn't mind it," Floyd said. "But if I don't have to, I won't."
He laughed. "That's just how I am."
There have been questions about Floyd's long-term future in Arizona, with Fitzgerald's resurgence and the emergence of Brown. But the way Bruce Arians' offense has clicked with Palmer at quarterback, there have been enough plays and enough passes that Fitzgerald, Brown and Floyd can all flourish.
It's a system Floyd embraces, knowing that there is always a chance to draw single coverage because of the others. "I'm not really a 'me' guy," Floyd said, and in this season where points are plentiful and wins come often, the receivers all seem to genuinely enjoy the others' success.
Both Fitzgerald and Floyd – who had his 2016 rookie contract option picked up last offseason for about $7 million next season – are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after the 2016 season.
"I can't really think about the contract," Floyd said. "That's a thing that can get you away (mentally) from what is really important, which is making plays on the field and helping this team win. I just think if you do your job on the field and make plays and do right, I think that is all going to come together."
Keim said Floyd's situation will take a back seat for now to the players scheduled to be free agents after this season, but those discussions will come.
Fitzgerald is quick to point out that Floyd's game is more than streaking down the sideline to out-physical a defensive back for the ball. He talked about the sharp route Floyd ran early in the game that forced Rams safety T.J. McDonald to miss and instead crush Jenkins on a hit. Floyd can break tackles and he's faster than expected.
The whole receiving corps, Fitzgerald said, is so versatile, even compared to the 2008 group with Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston.
"Me and Q, the headliners, we had outstanding careers, had Steve for a brief time … but this group, I think, is better from top to bottom," Fitzgerald said. "We legitimately have six guys that can really beat you. I think we have the deepest group in the game."
That's with Floyd still looking toward his upside.
"I'm happy with us winning games," Floyd said. "Any way I can contribute, score touchdowns for this team, I'll do."
GRESHAM DOUBTFUL, JEFFERSON GAME-DAY DECISION, REDDING TO RETURN
Arians said tight end Jermain Gresham (knee) and safety Tony Jefferson (hamstring) will both be game-day decisions Thursday, although Gresham is officially doubtful. Defensive tackle Cory Redding (ankle) will be available. Running back Andre Ellington (toe), defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (calf) will not play. Arians added that new safety D.J. Swearinger will have a role in the defense. It could increase if Jefferson can't play. …
Guard Earl Watford had a minor hand injury he was dealing with for a while, but he reinjured himself this week and when they checked it out, they discovered ligament damage, Arians said. Watford was placed on IR Tuesday. …
The Vikings will not have four defensive starters Thursday: DT Linval Joseph (foot), LB Anthony Barr (groin/hand), S Harrison Smith (hamstring) and S Andrew Sendejo (knee). LB Brandon Watts (rib) is also out. …
The Cardinals signed T John Wetzel to the practice squad.
Images of the key players for this week's opponent, the Minnesota Vikings