JENSEN: Cardinals rookie WR Michael Floyd benefits from positive stinking
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org December 22, 2012 12:28AM
Michael Floyd scores his first and only NFL touchdown against the Eagles in Week 3. | Christian Petersen~Getty Images
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:27AM
With two games left, Arizona Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd is 75th in the NFL with 31 catches for 349 yards and just one touchdown.
Not the rookie season the former Notre Dame star aimed for.
‘‘I always felt I was the best player, and I always expect a lot out of myself — I’m my own worst critic,’’ Floyd said. ‘‘If someone is yelling at me, they’re not going to be harder on me than I am on myself. It’s just about me making the plays and doing what I got to do to be successful.’’
The Cardinals (5-9) already are eliminated from the postseason, and their offense is the league’s worst, by far.
They selected Floyd 13th overall in the draft as a complement to six-time Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But neither has been all that productive because of a porous offensive line and horrendous quarterback play. John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and rookie Ryan Lindley have combined for just 10 touchdown passes while throwing 18 interceptions.
Fitzgerald is on pace to set career lows in receiving yards and touchdown catches. But he applauded Floyd’s development.
‘‘Mike has the ability to make plays up the field and down the field,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘He’s got a big body, but he’s deceptively fast. His route-running has really improved. His overall game has really improved. He’s got a great willingness to block — he doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s a complete receiver, and his skill set gets better day to day.’’
Asked if he has had to encourage Floyd during a trying season, Fitzgerald said, ‘‘No, I never had to say anything to him. It’s not like he’s been here a couple of years and had 1,400-, 1,500-, 1,600-yard seasons or anything. I mean, he’s a rookie. This is all he knows.’’
Minnesota’s Mr. Football as a high school senior in 2007, Floyd is accustomed to high expectations. But as complicated as the transition from college to the pros is, he added that there’s another surprise he wasn’t counting on.
‘‘What really surprised me is the speed of the game between the preseason and the regular season — that’s a huge difference,’’ he said. ‘‘Guys are just trying to get through the preseason and make sure they’re healthy.’’
He’s also learning to put in extra work now that there are fewer obligations outside of football.
‘‘I have to make sure I do the little things,’’ he said, mentioning the routine with Fitzgerald and other receivers of catching extra passes and running extra routes after practice.
Floyd said he still constantly communicates with his former Notre Dame teammates and harbors no frustrations that they’re headed to the national championship game without him.
‘‘It doesn’t really bother me,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m really excited for the guys, and it’s something that not a lot of guys get to do. I’m just excited for them, and I hope they pull it out.’’
Meanwhile, he will continue to try to prove himself.
‘‘I just want to be productive and to show people that I’m supposed to be in this league,’’ he said. ‘‘That comes with adjusting to the speed of the game and the guys you’re facing, because at this level, everyone is good.’’
Starving for takeaways
Bears coach Lovie Smith constantly preaches the need to generate turnovers. And he’s right. The Bears have struggled this season when they haven’t gotten them — especially in bunches.
They are 5-0 when they have a plus-2 giveaway/ takeaway differential, and they’re 0-3 when they are minus-2. Even when they are plus-1 — like they were against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday — they are just 2-2.
On the season, teams are 53-27-1 when they have a plus-1 differential.
Jay Cutler probably isn’t going to have much time to throw the ball Sunday. The Cardinals are tied for sixth in the NFL with 36 sacks, but they’re No. 1 at applying pressure on quarterbacks on pass plays (measured by a combination of sacks, knockdowns and hurries). According to STATS, the Cardinals get pressure on 23.8 percent of all pass plays. The Denver Broncos are next on the list (22.8).
The Bears are 26th (16.6). They have 36 sacks but only 22 knockdowns to the Cardinals’ 56.