The Cardinals’ Plan For Pass Catchers Starting To Form

WR Larry Fitzgerald (left) and WR Christian Kirk will both play outside and in the slot in 2019
WR Larry Fitzgerald (left) and WR Christian Kirk will both play outside and in the slot in 2019

Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t expect to create an offensive identity until after the draft, when the Cardinals’ roster shifts from fluid to mostly concrete.

But that doesn’t mean the mad scientist can’t begin to tinker.

While the Cardinals are still looking to upgrade their pass-catching options, several pieces currently on the roster figure to play pivotal roles. Kingsbury gave a glimpse into some of his passing game thoughts this week at the annual owners meetings.

The ageless Larry Fitzgerald again led the Cardinals in receptions and receiving yards in 2018. Kingsbury stopped short of saying Fitzgerald will catch 100 passes in his offense, but revealed the 35-year-old will move between outside receiver and the slot depending on circumstance and will be a key piece.

“He can still play at a high level, watching the film last year and watching late in the year how hard he was playing,” Kingsbury said. “The speed he plays the game with. He’s got such great route savvy. He’s going to be very effective in our offense.”

Second-year wide receiver Christian Kirk is expected to be another main weapon. He finished with 43 catches for 590 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games as a rookie before breaking his foot. Kingsbury called Kirk a “home run” of a draft pick and was impressed by his versatility.

“If you watched him last year, due to necessity he was outside,” Kingsbury said. “He wasn’t usually out there in college and I thought he held his own. That’s encouraging that if you need to get him out there, you can get him out there. And we know what he can do in the slot.”

The Cardinals’ most notable wide receiver addition to this point was the free agent signing of former No. 7 overall pick Kevin White to a one-year deal. White has not lived up to expectations in the NFL, in large part due to injuries, and the Cardinals are looking for a way to unlock his potential.

“That’s what we’re trying to find out,” Kingsbury said. “Taking to guys that have been around him in Chicago -- and I know his college coaches really, really well -- they rave about his toughness, personality, competitive spirit, so I think just a fresh start (helps). He had some tough injuries. He’s still 6-3, 205 and ran a 4.3 at the combine. And so, we got to try and see what he’s got because I watched it in person on the sideline and he can be a dangerous player, and we’re hoping that that’s what we get.”

David Johnson’s lack of production in the passing game was a big storyline a season ago and Kingsbury is expected to remedy that issue. Kingsbury is excited about Johnson’s special skillset.

“He’s a big back and when you split him out and put him in space like that he looks like a true receiver, so that’s a unique combination,” Kingsbury said. “You get a linebacker on him, you should feel comfortable he’s going to win that one.”

Atop Kingsbury’s wish list was a speedster to take the top off a defense. The Cardinals added a candidate to do that just hours after Kingsbury spoke when Damiere Byrd was inked to a one-year deal. Byrd reportedly ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at his Pro Day in 2015.

“I still think we need to look at somebody outside who can take the top off a little bit and scare people as a vertical threat,” Kingsbury said before the Byrd signing. “It looked like last year that was lacking a little bit, particularly when Christian got hurt. They’ll sit on you in this league if you don’t have one guy that scares you.”

Images of Cardinals cheerleader Ashlea from the 2018 season

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