Larry Fitzgerald is the most entertaining receiver in the NFL. His hang time on some catches can seem like slow motion, which is great for fans because his body control seems more reminiscent of a ballerina than a football player. His hands are massive and sticky. His big 6’3” 218lb frame makes it easy to box out opposing corners and implausible to bring him down with just one defensive back. It is for these reasons that Fitzgerald is Kevin Kolb’s constant first option and last second bail out. Larry Fitzgerald is a man that is likely to give Ike Taylor some trouble.
So far this season, Fitzgerald has 27 catches for 427 yards and two touchdowns. Now in his eighth season, the former Pitt receiver has 8,631 career receiving yards and 67 touchdowns. The remarkably durable Fitzgerald has missed just four games in his career. In his lone Super Bowl appearance, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Larry Fitzgerald netted 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Most of that production came at the expense of the man that will be covering him on Sunday, Ike Taylor.
Taylor has said that he expects and hopes for one on one coverage against the Arizona Cardinals’ most talented player and it is understandable that Ike might want some chance at redemption, but that might not be wise for the Steelers’ defense. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has struggled in the last 3 weeks with just one touchdown and five interceptions and it is difficult to imagine a better way of getting him back on track than allowing him to just throw the ball up to Larry Fitzgerald.
Just throwing it up to Fitzgerald is a low risk/high reward venture if Ike Taylor is covering him alone. Fitzgerald is one of the best jump ball receivers in the league and Taylor isn’t likely to get an interception,regardless of his coverage quality. Keeping a safety in the vicinity of the Cardinals’ number one option could at least create a potential punishment for an errant throw by Kolb.
Maybe the best reason to add an extra defender to Larry Fitzgerald’s realm is the absence of other potential distractions. The Arizona Cardinals sport a decent running back in Beanie Wells, but he is hardly a game breaker and one would hope that the front seven of the Steelers’ defense should be enough to contain him. After that, there are no other Arizona weapons of note. The team’s number two receiver is Early Doucet. The fourth year man out of LSU has never had more than 26 receptions in a season and even though he is likely to eclipse that mark in the coming weeks, there is little about his game that says he would be the number two receiver on most teams.
There are a lot of factors in all NFL games and the upcoming match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals is no exception. The pass rush against Kolb, running game for both sides, and special teams are all likely to be bigger factors than the Fitzgerald vs. Taylor match-up, but nowhere else on the field will you see two players with such finely tuned and exciting skill sets. The best thing about the NFL is watching elite athletes compete against one another and Larry Fitzgerald and Ike Taylor are two of the very best.
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