Former Notre Dame WR Floyd becomes key for Cardinals

Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There’s a big, talented receiver for the Arizona Cardinals whose name is not Larry Fitzgerald.

Michael Floyd, entering his third season, has emerged as a major target for quarterback Carson Palmer.

Fitzgerald caught more passes last year, 82 to Floyd’s 65. But Floyd’s catches covered 1,041 yards to Fitzgerald’s 954.

Floyd was the ninth Cardinal to reach 1,000 yards receiving. Fitzgerald has done it six times.

Some have even suggested Floyd is supplanting Fitzgerald as the team’s No. 1 receiver. Fitzgerald, who had always played wideout, was shifted into the slot by new coach Bruce Arians, with Floyd split wide.

But there certainly is no animosity.

The two, who grew up some 10 miles apart in Minnesota, are good friends. Floyd is a regular at Fitzgerald’s summer training camp.

And Floyd, the former Notre Dame standout, said no one is considered the No. 1 receiver.

“There’s not no 1, there’s not no 2 in our group,” he said. “There are some plays that are recommended for a certain individual, and without that second guy, that guy won’t be open. So we all work together for the same common goal, and that’s to win ballgames.”

Whatever the ranking, the 6-foot-3 Fitzgerald and 6-foot-2 Floyd make a formidable pair.

That’s what the Cardinals envisioned when they made Floyd the 13th player selected in 2012. There hadn’t been a Notre Dame wide receiver drafted in the first round since Tim Brown was chosen sixth in 1988.

His first year, with Arizona going through severe quarterback woes, was disappointing until Floyd caught eight passes for 166 yards and a touchdown in the season finale against San Francisco.

It was a preview of things to come.

Last season against Jacksonville, he broke free for a 91-yard touchdown catch. He finished with 193 yards, ranking seventh in franchise history and the most since Anquan Boldin had 217 yards against Detroit in 2003.

In Arizona’s late-season 17-10 win at Seattle, he made a spectacular 31-yard catch for the game-winning touchdown.

And Floyd is only 24.

“Mike’s a young guy,” Carson Palmer said. “It doesn’t seem like it because of his maturity. ... He can do just about everything because he’s quick enough. He’s a big, physical guy but he plays quick, he plays small as far as releases and getting off the ball.”

Floyd slimmed down since his rookie season to 220 pounds, and it’s mostly muscle. When the Cardinals went deep with the offense, it was usually to Floyd last season.

Arians said Floyd “just matured a little bit” from his rookie year to his second.

“Sometimes as a rookie, you don’t know how to be a pro,” Arians said, “and you learn from a guy like Larry how to be a pro. Then you’re ability takes over, and that’s pretty much where he’s at. He’s just going to climb.”

A 1,000-yard receiving season did wonders for Floyd’s confidence.

“It builds it tremendously,” he said. “I’m glad my quarterback has a lot of confidence in me, knowing that I can make plays on the ball and make plays for him, even though he might be in a jam sometimes. I feel good, we all feel good and we’re ready to get this thing rolling.”

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd had plenty to smile about last week on the first day of training camp in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/ROSS D. FRANKLIN)
Former Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd makes a catch in front of Tony Jefferson during the first day of training camp Saturday for the Arizona Cardinals. (AP Photo/ROSS D. FRANKLIN)