Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald grinds out some of his 91 yards after the catch last weekend in a win over the Dolphins.
Anquan Boldin laughed at the idea he was a "master" at getting yards after the catch.
"I wouldn't say I am the master," Boldin said. "I've just been doing it a long time. I've played a lot of quarterback, so I was able to see a lot of things. I ran a lot out of shotgun in high school. I got a jump on a lot of receivers as far as running in the open field. That was something I was able to carry over."
Still, the Cardinals' wide receiver has been a star at taking the ball and gaining extra yards. It was no mistake that, after fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had a big day gaining yards after the catch against Miami, coach Ken Whisenhunt said Fitzgerald "was doing an Anquan imitation running with the football."
Joking aside, Boldin's continued success in that area and Fitzgerald's improvement should impact the Cardinals' offense going forward.
Thanks to Boldin's 79-yard catch-and-run and Fitzgerald's similar 75-yard play, both players had big "YAC" games. Fitzgerald was credited with 91 yards after the catch by coaches; Boldin 85.
"You can practice it," Boldin said. "But some guys just have that ability. Just like they say running backs have great vision, it's the same with receivers. Being able to read blocks or the angles of defenders. A lot of it is God-given talent."
Gaining more yards after catch was a point of emphasis for Fitzgerald in the offseason. Often willing to catch and immediately go down, coaches had impressed upon Fitzgerald the need to be more aggressive in gaining more yards.
Fitzgerald heard the prodding. But he was also determined to find ways to improve his game anyway, despite two Pro Bowl appearances in four seasons and despite getting a new five-year, $40 million contract.
"Like I said before, I have to continue to improve to become great, and I will keep working to obtain greatness and work on the things I need to work on," Fitzgerald said.
Added Whisenhunt, "During that whole period when we were talking about a contract, one of the things he said was he felt an obligation to show he was worthy of the money. I think Larry is a driven player, he wants to be good regardless of his contract."
Boldin said his teammate deserves a pat on the back for his YAC.
"It's something he has been working on in practice and it is showing in the games," Boldin said.
Through two games, the Cardinals' defense is ranked seventh in the NFL and is tied for fifth in points allowed. The Cards' five takeaways are tied with Pittsburgh for most in the NFL.
The Cardinals didn't have a takeaway against Miami, but Whisenhunt praised the unit for playing within the scheme, which was designed to avoid big plays, and for holding the Dolphins down most of the game, while Arizona built a big lead. Whisenhunt also said there were a couple of near-interceptions.
"From an outsider looking in, for a person looking for an aggressive defense, you want to see sacks, you want to see turnovers, that's a lot of times how people judge games," Whisenhunt said. "But if we get them out, don't let them have long drives, keep them off the board, they have done what they are supposed to do."
The Cardinals will face a Redskins' offense that piled up more than 400 yards against the Saints last weekend.
"With the success we have had starting out, it just raises the bar," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "You raise the bar in everything you do, the walkthrough, the execution, the paying attention to detail in the meeting. It gets to a level where that's the standard. Day in, day out, you try and raise the standard a little more."
Kicker Neil Rackers booted a kickoff out of bounds and missed a field goal (that was wiped out because of a Miami penalty), but Whisenhunt said it's not black-and-white when measuring Rackers' value.
"Neil brings a lot of things to the table besides field goals and extra points, which are the things it seems most people evaluate the position," Whisenhunt said. "He had a huge (pooch) kick against San Francisco that essentially won the game for us.
"Neil is a versatile guy. He does a lot of things that make up for kicking the ball out of bounds. He's been working hard, and I am confident in Neil."
Defensive end/linebacker Travis LaBoy (ankle) was limited in practice and Whisenhunt is calling him questionable for Sunday's game in Washington. If he can't go, it would be a blow to a Cardinals' pass rush that has gotten off to a good start. Tackle Levi Brown (knee) and wide receiver Steve Breaston (hamstring) both returned to full practice and are expected to play. Tight end Jerame Tuman (hamstring) remained sidelined.
Defensive tackle Gabe Watson (knee) practiced full all week, and Whisenhunt said there is a chance Watson could play Sunday.
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 9/19/08.