GLENDALE, Ariz. – Michael Floyd’s training camp storyline is static. That’s beginning to annoy him.
“It’s in one ear and out the other,” he said with a faint smile.
Don’t get him wrong. Floyd likes the idea of relieving pressure from Larry Fitzgerald, but when he projects his 2013 accomplishments, he has a few more goals in mind.
“I’m ready to do a lot of great things,” he said. “It’s about relieving pressure on everyone.”
Fantasy owners, fans and the franchise hope he’s right. You can pinpoint a number of keys when predicting the Cardinals’ offensive fortunes in 2013. Can quarterback Carson Palmer avoid costly interceptions? Can the offensive line keep Palmer upright and open enough holes for the run game? Will Rashard Mendenhall be able to carry the rushing load with a lot of inexperienced backs behind him?
But among the players capable of elevating the Cardinals offense to another level, Floyd is the greatest unknown.
“We’re still seeing how good he can be,” Palmer said. “He’s still got a lot of room to improve.”
If Floyd can justify the 13th pick the Cards used to draft him in last year’s first round, imagine the domino effect it could have on that much anticipated passing game. It would allow Andre Roberts to slip comfortably into the third receiver role, it would allow tight end Rob Housler a little more breathing room on that seam route, it would give Palmer another big weapon who can go up and get 50-50 balls and, as previously discussed, it just might allow Fitzgerald to be Fitzgerald again.
Last season, Fitzgerald had just 798 receiving yards, which eclipsed only his rookie season when he had 780. His 71 catches were the third-lowest mark of his career, and his four touchdowns and 11.2 yards per catch were both career lows.
“I never want to have another season like that again,” Fitzgerald said. “We all have to be better to help each other out, but Mike’s one of those special guys who can really help this offense take a step up.”
It wasn’t that Floyd had a terrible rookie season. He had 45 catches, which was the fifth highest total of any rookie receiver in 2012. But he wasn’t a difference maker or a Fitzgerald alternative. On a spiraling team with myriad offensive issues, that hurt.
“Last season, I felt like there was a learning curve where some things didn’t come as fast as I wanted,” Floyd said. “But I felt like when I got more opportunities the second half of the season, I started to perform to my abilities.”
Floyd finished the season with eight catches for 166 yards and a TD on Dec. 30 in San Francisco. That is the note on which he’s started training camp, but there was plenty of work this offseason to make that possible.
After moving in with Fitzgerald – both hail from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area – Floyd started paying much closer attention to what he eats, opting for vegetables and, gulp, fish, instead of “always eating steaks.”
“He’s in better shape and that’s always something that guys have to get a feel for once they come into the league,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “I also think he’s taken fundamentals more to heart. If you can master the simple stuff, then the hard stuff gets a little easier.”
It can be hard to sift through the hyperbole of camp where evaluations often overstate a player’s performance. But Floyd’s play has earned universal praise thus far.
“Mike’s made tough catches, he’s made all the easy ones, and he’s gone up and high-pointed the ball, which is something when you’re built like he is and you’re the type of player and style of player he is, he has to make those plays 7 out of 10 times,” Palmer said. “
Arians said Floyd is not the same player he watched on film when he was hired as the team’s coach in January – he’s not even the same player Arians saw this spring.
“He’s improved dramatically from the first minicamp to now: route running, his understanding of concepts, hot sights, the whole packages,” Arians said. “I think he’ll continue to grow and you’ll have to account for him.”
Floyd admits Arians’ offense has its complexities.
“You’ve got to know every single position so it tests your mind a little bit,” he said. “But I’m a lot more confident in my ability to do what I do best out on the field: Go up and get the ball and make catches that a lot of people can’t.
“I just need to play big, be physical and take advantage of my talents.”
If he does, Arians joked that it will create an entirely different problem.
“If he’s getting the ball, Larry’s not, so somebody’s mad,” Arians said, laughing. “When you have three receivers, there’s always one on Monday who’s got his lip poked out.”