Rookie Stephen Williams (left) is the Cardinals' No. 2 receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald (right) now that Steve Breaston is injured.
Derek Anderson was joking as he chastised reporters Wednesday, insisting at first he was saying nothing special to the Cardinals' young receivers now that both Steve Breaston and Early Doucet were out with injuries.
"And you guys don't do that either," Anderson said. "I think they know enough that they have to go in there and play and make plays.
"So don't everybody go to their lockers and start hounding them and giving them a hard time."
An impossible request, really. With the news Breaston had surgery Tuesday to repair the meniscus in his right knee, the attention was going to go squarely on undrafted rookies Stephen Williams and Max Komar, the most likely candidates to play behind Larry Fitzgerald in the passing game.
The Cards also have third-round pick Andre Roberts, although he has lagged behind Williams and Komar on the depth chart. Onrea Jones was also re-signed this week, although while Jones has been on and off the roster since 2008, he has yet to make a regular-season appearance himself.
What the Cards do have in Williams and Komar are a confident duo. Maybe it's because both posted gaudy statistics in college. Maybe it's because they've – as coach Ken Whisenhunt suggested – already done the hard part by making the active roster as undrafted players. Whatever the reason, there is little fear from them in the knowledge they must produce for the Cards to have a chance.
"It's not about me being comfortable (anymore)," Williams said. "It's about execution. I know I can make the plays."
Said Komar, "I have always had a chip on my shoulder about the game because people don't think I can perform. I come in confident and I think that carries over on the field."
Komar acknowledged he was a "little bit" upset at the idea some will write off the passing game with Breaston added to the injury list. That too goes back to the confidence both have.
Fitzgerald doesn't see why they wouldn't be sure of themselves at this point. "They played more snaps in preseason than any free agents guys that played, with Early missing time, me missing time, Steve not playing all that much."
Fitzgerald said he tries to be "like a big brother" to the young receivers. "I just don't want them to lose their confidence," he said. "Like Stephen, I know he is capable of making big things happen."
That will certainly be necessary. Whisenhunt said the Cardinals will continue to move Fitzgerald around in an effort to get him the ball, but already Fitzgerald has been understandably frustrated because he has been unable to get the ball much. He had just two receptions against Oakland and has just 12 in three games – a pace of just 64 catches over a season, well below the 90 or so he expects to get.
With Breaston out, Fitzgerald figures to get even more attention from the defense.
"I guess it might put more on me, I don't know," Fitzgerald said. "I'm just trying to make something happen right now. That's my only goal."
Whisenhunt said it made more sense to stick with the young receivers than bring in a veteran because most of the veteran receivers the Cards would want "are with a team right now." Even if there was a player that interested the team, to sign someone and have them learn the many route and formation adjustments and develop a chemistry with Anderson doesn't seem efficient – especially since the hope is that both Breaston and Doucet will miss just two more games and return after the Cardinals' bye.
Both Williams and Komar have been learning multiple positions over the last few weeks. Williams also said he has been coming in to the facility around 8 p.m. Tuesday nights to get a jump on the game plan for the week. That tends to encourage coaches when they have to lean on a player unexpectedly.
Williams noted that when Fitzgerald came back from his injury and Breaston started playing more in the regular season, "my role simmered down."
Williams' role is back to a boil now.
"This," he said, "is what I've been looking for."
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