Fitzgerald Is A ‘Game-Wrecker’

The Cardinals wide receiver is averaging a career-high 16.3 yards per catch.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, October 28th, 2011 at 11:17 am | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 8 vs Cardinals

The Ravens have a nickname for players like Larry Fitzgerald.

Game-wreakers.

Ravens Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano has a few more adjectives for him too.

“He’s a beast. He’s a freak,” he said. “We avoided Andre Johnson when Houston came to town. Unfortunately, we’ve got this guy. He’s just a freak of nature.”

Arizona’s playmaking wide receiver signed an eight-year, $120 million contract this offseason, making him one of the highest-paid players in the game.

He leads Cardinals with 31 receptions for 505 yards, including 10 over 20 yards, which ranks sixth in the NFL. He’s averaging a career-best 16.3 yards per catch.

Fitzgerald has wrecked one game this season, catching seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown against the Washington Redskins. He had eight snags for 102 yards against the New York Giants.

But opponents have been able to crack down more on Fitzgerald since he lost former running mate Anquan Boldin in a trade to the Ravens before last season.

Fitzgerald’s touchdown totals dropped from double digits from 2007-2009 to six last year and he has just two so far this season. His receptions are also down this season from his usual pace. Last week, Fitzgerald said he misses Boldin.

Without a top-flight option opposite Fitzgerald, he’ll see a lot of attention from the Ravens.

The key to defending Fitzgerald, Pagano says, is keeping track of where he’s going to be. The Cardinals shift him around a good amount, which means Baltimore will study extra game tape.

“Don’t cover the decoys,” Pagano said. “Cover the guys they’re throwing to; and they’re probably going to be throwing to him a lot.”

Arizona could rely on Fitzgerald even more than usual if running back Beanie Wells (knee) isn’t able to play.

Pagano said the Ravens have to do a good job of “mixing things up” on Fitzgerald, which indicates that Baltimore won’t assign a particular cornerback to handcuffing the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder.

Safety Ed Reed, who this week called Fitzgerald a “Hall of Famer for sure,” will likely be the man assigned to preventing Fitzgerald from going deep on them.

But no matter how many defenders Baltimore puts on Fitzgerald, the All-Pro wideout still has the potential to burn them.

“We could have three guys on him and he’ll go up and pluck that ball out of the air,” Pagano said. “He’s a special, special guy.”

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