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Wounded Arizona left with Fitzgerald and rookies

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)

That talented wide receiver corps the Arizona Cardinals used to have has diminished to perennial All-Star Larry Fitzgerald and three rookies, two of them undrafted.

It's not exactly a recipe for success for an offense already struggling through the air with the erratic passing of Derek Anderson.

This week, Steve Breaston joined Early Doucet on the sidelines. Breaston had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Doucet is recovering from surgery to repair a sports hernia, an injury that occurred in the season opener against St. Louis.

The players behind Fitzgerald this Sunday at San Diego are Stephen Williams, Max Komar and Andre Roberts. Williams and Komar were undrafted free agents, one from Toledo, the other Idaho.

Fitzgerald is painting the best picture possible, given the circumstances.

''I know those guys have confidence, especially Max and Steve,'' he said after the team practiced on Thursday. ''Those guys just have an aura about them and I'm looking forward to them playing big for us.''

Breaston's loss is especially significant. He leads the team in receptions with 14 for 183 yards and a touchdown.

His spot has been taken by Williams, who emerged in training camp as a big surprise, quickly moving up the depth chart to the No. 4 receiver spot, then advancing through attrition as Doucet and Breaston were injured. But so far he has only three catches for 37 yards.

Komar also has three catches for 36 yards, but he had two lost fumbles in the season opener, one as a punt returner, the other as a receiver.

He said his fumbles weren't caused by nerves, just bad technique, not keeping the ball ''high and tight.'' He said that's been corrected.

Roberts, a third-round draft pick out of The Citadel, has been something of a disappointment. He struggled in training camp and, when given punt return duties, made a fair catch inside his 5-yard line and had a role in the two turnovers Arizona committed Sunday against Oakland when punts bounced off of Cardinals players who were trying to get in position to block for him.

Also, he has yet to catch an NFL pass.

Roberts said being inactive for games earlier in the season has taught him a lesson.

''I do feel like I've made some good progress,'' Roberts said. ''Definitely being inactive humbles you and makes you more hungry. I feel like I'm grasping the offense a lot more and learning the concepts.''

To shore up the position, Arizona re-signed Onrea Jones, a second-year pro out of Hampton, who was one of the final cuts the team made before the season began.

Fitzgerald said he will support the youngsters.

''If they want to come over with me to the house and watch tape after practice, they're more than welcome,'' he said. ''If they want to come over and have a meal at the house, they're more than welcome. If they want to come and get a meal at the house, they're more than welcome. I mean, whatever. Whatever they need, I'm going to be there for them.''

Anderson just wants the receivers to understand their jobs.

''They know enough that they know they need to go in there and make plays,'' the quarterback said. ''They're going to put enough pressure on themselves. I'll just make sure they understand what I'm thinking, what they should be doing and we just go out there and just play.''

Fitzgerald will obviously be the center of the defense's attention. Bt he and Anderson have struggled to connect regularly, a stark contrast to the prolific pairing of Kurt Warner and Fitzgerald in past seasons.

It hasn't helped that Fitzgerald still is not fully recovered from a sprained right knee that kept him out of the last three pre-season games.

Anderson has thrown to Fitzgerald 34 times and connected on just 12, although two have been for touchdowns. Fitzgerald had just two catches Sunday against Oakland.

Arizona might be the most unimpressive 2-1 team in the NFL, barely getting past St. Louis in the opener, getting blasted at Atlanta and beating Oakland last Sunday 24-23 only because Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32-yard field goal as the game ended.

But, as Fitzgerald noted, it still is 2-1, and that makes the chemistry issues with Anderson easier to take.

''That's really what it's all about,'' Fitzgerald said. ''If we were 0-3, I might pull my hair out. But I'm good right now. ... We've played just OK, not well enough. But fortunate to be 2-1. These next two games against San Diego and New Orleans will be good tests for us going into the bye.''

Tagged: Larry Fitzgerald, Derek Anderson, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet, Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams, Max Komar, Cardinals

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