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Those Wide Receiver Blocks, And Friday Before The Seahawks

Deep into his career – especially after Bruce Arians arrived – Larry Fitzgerald morphed into one of the best blocking wide receivers in the NFL. He just didn't want to hear about it.

It was understandable, really. Fitz was one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, and he didn't get that reputation because he was knocking a cornerback or safety out of the way on an outside zone run. But such things are important -- like in the current Cardinals' offense, a scheme that leans on play-action in particular and the run game more broadly.

"We ask a lot of them," coach Jonathan Gannon said. "They are digging out support, they're blocking safeties, they're blocking linebackers, they're pulling through. (OC) Drew (Petzing) is pretty creative with those guys and it's pretty difficult on a defense. But you have to have guys that do that and win at the point of attack."

For the Cardinals, bigger receivers like Michael Wilson and Zach Pascal are the body types that make the most sense. That doesn't mean guys like Hollywood Brown and Rondale Moore won't ever do it. It wasn't a run play – although it was a quick screen – but Moore went semi-viral after the 49ers game after chip-blocking a 49ers defensive end to the ground.

"That's funny truthfully, because if you go back to my rookie year tape, I probably have like three, and career-wise I probably have about six or seven of those pancakes," Moore said. "I've been chipping since I got into this league. It's funny that one decided to blow up."

Wilson said he figures 50 percent of his role right now is as a blocker. Gannon earlier in the year praised him for being out front on run plays so often, creating room effectively. At 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 213 pounds, he has the ability to move defenders.

"Anyone can block," Wilson said. "It's all a want-to more than a talent. It's 100 percent effort-based. But it also comes with your role. We won't ask Hollywood to pin D-ends. We'll ask me. That's a size thing. Not saying he can't do it. My role, I understand I probably won't get the target share (of passes), I haven't earned that yet. Understanding my role, I need to be a good blocking receiver. That's how I can help this offense."

That said, the echo of Fitz lives. The Cardinals wide receivers are willing blockers, but Wilson acknowledged he understands why Fitzgerald felt the way he did. A wideout doesn't want to be typecast, or so good at blocking that he's doing that on a given pass play while another pass catcher gets the ball.

"I wouldn't say anyone likes going out there and headbutting people" Moore said. "It is satisfying having the back run past you and having your man not make the tackle.

"But as a receiver you want to go catch footballs. That's probably more fun than blocking."

-- Kyler Murray isn't rostered yet. But by all accounts (and the little practice we get to watch every day) Murray is fine on a physical level. QB coach Israel Woolfork said the same on Friday. I am still guessing the earliest he would return would be at Cleveland Nov. 5 and perhaps more likely at home Nov. 12 against the Falcons. But whenever it is, Murray's comeback is in the home stretch. And he'll be the overarching story when he does.

-- Who am I kidding? Murray already is the main story. Like Thanos, it was inevitable.

-- We will find out Saturday afternoon if Budda Baker gets put back on the 53-man roster and could play on Sunday. That feels like it'll happen, but we will see.

-- The guess is that Dennis Daley will start for the injured Elijah Wilkinson at left guard. It'll be the first time this season the original starting offensive line is not together.

-- The Cardinals will wear white-over-white on Sunday.

-- Outside linebacker Zaven Collins played near 100 percent of the snaps last season. But he was an inside linebacker then, with his playing weight around 260 pounds. Now he is at 270, and in an outside 'backer rotation that has left him playing about 52 percent of the snaps this season.

"I can't go as much as long as I used to be able to go," Collins acknowledged. "Was I as strong then as I am now? I was not. I didn't have as much power then. I don't mind coming off a little bit and then coming back on when I am more fresh. I really enjoy that."

Part of it is the way the new coaching staff operates with an outside linebacker rotation. Aside from Collins, Dennis Gardeck, Victor Dimukeje, Cameron Thomas, Jesse Luketa and BJ Ojulari all get a decent amount of work.

"I used to play 12-play drives, I'd be fine," Collins said. "I get 10-play drives now it's like 'Holy sh*t.' That's why D-linemen are always changing out. It's like, 'Why are they coming out?' 'Damn guys, it's 13-play drives. They need a breath.' It's part of the game."

-- The coaches have talked multiple times about how cornerbacks, when they get beat, are going to be in the spotlight, and there is no question both Marco Wilson and rookie Kei'Trel Clark – who has had his snaps diminish – have struggled. But the Cardinals, according to Next Gen Stats, have the second-lowest pressure rate in the league (29.5 percent) and the reality is that it's difficult to cover anyone without a consistently effective pass rush.

-- His playing time likely will shrink with Budda Baker's return, but safety Andre Chachere is still going to be smiling – it's his natural state. Chachere is in his third stint with the Cardinals. He was on the practice squad for a month in early 2019 and then came back for a few weeks at the end of 2019 and into the offseason before he was let go in May of 2020. He came back this year, following his former Eagles coaches.

"It was crazy honestly," Chachere said. "Coming back four years later it's like, 'Damn everything is the same but everything is different.'"

There are a couple of players still around, and Chachere had the connections with the former Eagles players and coaches that have shown up. He's thrilled to get the playing time he has gotten – he has played more this season than any other since coming into the league in 2018 – but he's happier to have a job.

"After Philly let me go during OTAs I was kind of thinking, 'Ah, well, this might be it, it's been six years I've only played a year-and-a-half, this might be it,'" Chachere said. "But then I got the call here. After six years, practice squads, bouncing around the league, finally getting the opportunity here -- and that's what it is, an opportunity."

See you Sunday.

Wide receiver Michael Wilson (14) blocks for running back James Conner.
Wide receiver Michael Wilson (14) blocks for running back James Conner.