Skip to main content

Arizona Cardinals Home: The official source of the latest Cardinals headlines, news, videos, photos, tickets, rosters and game day information

With Christian Kirk, Chad Williams, Cardinals Go Young At Receiver

Rookie Trent Sherfield the fifth to go with vets Fitzgerald, Nelson

Rookie Christian Kirk figures to play a big role at wide receiver as the Cardinals go young at the position.
Rookie Christian Kirk figures to play a big role at wide receiver as the Cardinals go young at the position.

Larry Fitzgerald turned 35 last week and goes into his 15th NFL season working on a live streak of three straight 100-reception seasons.

J.J. Nelson is less accomplished but has shown up at important times in his brief NFL career, making dramatic long catches against the Seahawks a couple of times and boosting the Cardinals in an overtime win at Indianapolis last season.

Beyond that, it's difficult to know what comes with the Cardinals' receiving corps.

There are two rookies in second-round pick Christian Kirk and undrafted free agent Trent Sherfield. Chad Williams is in his second year after a rookie campaign in which is biggest play came when he ran the ball on a jet sweep.

These are the receivers coach Steve Wilks wanted. There are reasons veterans like Brice Butler and Greg Little didn't stick.

"Experience is good when it's proven, when guys continue to progress and perform," Wilks said Monday, as the Cardinals practiced for the first time with a 53-man roster. "I told you guys this from day one, I don't mind playing rookies. That's my mindset. I'm going to play the guys that deserve the right to play, and most importantly, we kept the guys that I felt deserved the right to be here."

Sherfield figures to have a small role early. Nelson is around to provide a deep threat. So it falls to Kirk and Williams – and probably also to running back David Johnson, and maybe tight end Ricky Seals-Jones – to provide the pass catchers need for quarterback Sam Bradford.

"I expect to be held to the same standard a veteran would be and perform," Kirk said. "Same with the other rookies, same with Chad. Sundays, we have to have a chip on our shoulder because we know guys will come at us early. We have some young bucks, but we know we can rise to the occasion."

Behind Fitzgerald's 1,234 career receptions (he needs 92 to have the second-most in NFL history), there is Nelson with 74 and Williams with three.

Williams and Kirk flashed in the second preseason game at New Orleans – easily the best performance by the Cardinals' passing game in the exhibition season – but the passing attack was poor in Dallas when Bradford played just two series and Josh Rosen didn't play at all. Neither Williams or Kirk played in the preseason finale.

Skeptics don't bother Williams. He talked about how the receivers have a "big shield" around them, and negative comments simply bounce off the group. Just being one of the few kept as receivers, given who was released, creates confidence, he added.

"They told us (Monday) morning, they totally trust everyone on the 53," Williams said. "So they trust everyone in this (wide receiver) room to get it done, and we will."

Wilks has repeatedly talked about the importance of the running game, and it's hard to envision the offense of coordinator Mike McCoy being anything but heavy run anyway. Wilks also likes the idea of the receiving group having someone like Bradford, who has proven to be one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL and who has plenty of experience himself.

"Having a veteran quarterback is a key in anything," Wilks said.

There is still Fitzgerald leading the way. There is Johnson, who has proven he can be a quasi-receiver. Cardinals fans also can remember the last time they went heavy on young receivers, back in 2003 when the Cards went with Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson, and the following year added a rookie named Fitz.

"Today there was a certain type of energy in the building and in our room, knowing that these are the guys we're going to ride with," Kirk said.