Arizona Cardinals superstar receiver Larry Fitzgerald overcame an underwhelming display from quarterback Carson Palmer to still produce, as he consistently has for a franchise often lacking a premier passer.
Fitzgerald was targeted five times and caught three passes for 71 yards in the first half of Sunday's preseason clash with the Cincinnati Bengals. That included a 43-yard catch-and-run where he turned a slant into an explosive play.
Approaching age 31, the veteran still has plenty of burst left and is capable of producing big chunks of yards. NFL.com's Dan Hanzus weighed in on Fitzgerald's performance:
Larry Fitzgerald is forever glorious.— Dan Hanzus (@DanHanzus) August 25, 2014
Who will win the NFC West?
Fitzgerald, who also showed off his excellent hands with a diving 19-yard catch, will continue to be at least a borderline No. 1 fantasy play. The emergence of Michael Floyd and rookie John Brown may take targets away from Fitzgerald, but with the way coach Bruce Arians likes to air it out, it's still reasonable to count on Fitzgerald for a big year.
Other than Kurt Warner's magical career revival with the Cardinals, Fitzgerald hasn't had the benefit of a viable QB to throw him the ball. Even with Palmer's unsteady hand guiding the offense, though, Arizona still won 10 games in 2013 and has generated some momentum in the preseason.
The NFC West figures to be tough, but Fitzgerald said in an ESPN interview with Ed Werder in July that the Cardinals match up favorably with their rivals, via ProFootballTalk's Michael David Smith:
We always talk about winning the NFC West. That’s our goal first and foremost, getting to the playoffs. We did a good job after the bye week, finishing 6-2. Obviously it wasn’t good enough to get us into the tournament but we finished strong and were able to execute more efficiently down the stretch.
We understand and respect those teams. They’re very talented and they’ve been to the playoffs for the last couple years. But we’re very confident in our abilities. We match up very well with those teams and St. Louis as well. We’re confident in our ability to play at a high level against the best teams in the league.
It appears that Fitzgerald's unwavering loyalty to the only organization he's been a part of will be rewarded with another successful 2014 campaign. Fantasy owners who were patient with Fitzgerald after a down 2012 saw him amass just under 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago.
Fitzgerald has had 10 or more TDs in a year just five times in his career. With that production, his demonstrated rapport with Palmer and how frequently the Cardinals will pass in 2014, Fitzgerald is still a strong fantasy option who can contribute to a winning team in any type of league.
Long-term value is a bit more of a question mark. If Palmer doesn't perform well overall, a new QB may be implemented after the 2014 season.