Commentary

Observation deck: Fitzgerald getting scary good

As good as Larry Fitzgerald has been, he's going to be even better this year, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: August 9, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Five observations from Arizona Cardinals training camp, gleaned from the team's practices:

1. Best is yet to come for Fitzgerald
The most noticeably improved player on the team is Larry Fitzgerald, and that's scary. Fitzgerald is one of the most physically-imposing receivers in the league. He's 6-foot-3, 226 pounds and can make acrobatic catches that defy gravity. This is his fourth season, and clearly it's going to be his best. He worked harder on refining his route running and improved his release at the line of scrimmage. Lining up opposite Anquan Boldin is a big help for Fitzgerald; Boldin, a Pro Bowler, is one of the hardest-working receivers in the league. Fitzgerald, who turns 24 at the end of the month, got by on using his pure athletic skills during his first three years. Now, he wants to master the receiving position, and he's winning the battle.

2. Pendergast keeps 'em guessing
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is installing a hybrid defensive scheme. On some plays, it's a 4-3. On others, it's a 3-4. For years, Pendergast kept offenses guessing with his wild blitz packages. Now, he'll keep teams guessing with a variety of alignments. Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor have bought in to the idea of being hybrid players; this season they will line up as blitzing outside linebackers after years of being undersized defensive ends. Both came to camp about 15 pounds lighter because of the quickness required for the linebacker drops and range. On some plays, they will put a hand on the ground and play defensive end. On others, they will stand up and play linebacker. Both will rush the quarterback. The key to any 3-4 defense is the nose tackle, and the Cardinals appear to have two players capable of manning the position. Gabe Watson is running first team at the nose, and although Watson never won over Dennis Green, he's winning over this coaching staff. He dropped 31 pounds and is making plays at 332 pounds. Second-round pick Alan Branch is a big, good-looking prospect who can also be a factor at the nose.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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