Week 1 Observations: Cardinals/Rams
- Updated: September 10, 2013
Larry Fitzgerald is back! After an entirely forgettable year due to terrible QB play, Fitz has a serviceable QB again in Carson Palmer, who looks like a good fit for the new offensive scheme. I thought Palmer threw well behind a still shaky offensive line and I liked that he consistently chose to throw down field instead of taking open check down shots. His deep ball has some zip and Palmer still loves to throw into coverage which actually works well in Arizona. However as the game went on, I noticed that Palmer seemed to grow tired and his throws grew further and further off target. As I expect Arizona to come out slinging in every game, I’m not too worried about a decline but Palmer’s energy level is something to keep an eye on if the Cards continue to pass like crazy. He’s a solid QB2 who could occasionally turn out a big game with the assistance of several great receiving options.
Fitz could have had an even better day but a TD pass on the Cards third drive just glanced off his fingertips while he was draped in double coverage. I guess owners will have to settle for a mere 80 yards and 2 TDs. Bummer. In the unlikely event that Michael Floyd is available in your league, grab him immediately. Floyd made several spectacular catches this game and will be targeted a lot with Larry Fitz eating coverage across the field. Andre Roberts is another player to immediately roster as he caught 8 of 9 targets and held onto the ball through some hard hits in the middle of the field. Roberts flew under the radar last year but has loads of talent and will make the best of weak coverage as the third receiving option behind two studs. We saw nothing of Rod Housler this game and he might shift the target balance upon return but will more probably spend his time blocking as the Arizona OLine needs all the help it can get.
Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith split carries and I expect it to stay that way. Mendy looked timid at the beginning of the game and didn’t show off much burst but I thought that he ran better as the game went on and was increasingly harder to tackle. Mendenhall is a low end flex option in 12 team leagues and a bye week fill in until he shows us something more. Smith flashed some some juice as a runner but was often quickly dropped at first contact and will play the shifty role to Mendenhall’s more powerful skill set. Neither really accomplished much in the passing game. I don’t know yet if Ryan Williams will make an impact this year.
The Rams nabbed a good divisional win and I thought Fischer’s game plan was very solid for his offensive weapons. Sam Bradford ended up tied with 3 others (Ryan, Pryor and RG3) for the #11 QB spot this week (entirely thanks to Jared Cook) and while I don’t expect him to maintain that kind of scoring, I do believe he’ll churn out good production for a second tier QB or a replacement. Don’t be surprised to see a few dud performances. After one game, Jared Cook appears to be a super stud who was badly underused with the Titans. He actually could have had another touchdown but Tyrann Mathieu came out of nowhere and got an incredible knockout, causing an 8 point swing for Cook. While I don’t think that Cook will become the focus of the Rams attack and his numbers will certainly regress, he’s obviously a playmaker and will run as a strong weekly top-10 TE this year.
Daryl Richardson was a larger part of the Rams game plan than I expected and I think his final numbers skew his real value. Richardson was heavily involved early in the game and was present in practically every Rams drive. He popped off great runs when they needed to go up the field and had a couple of good gains called back on holding penalties. Richardson also had a few tough carries to get off of the Rams goal line and was used to burn clock at the end of the game, resulting in several carries for only 1 or 2 yards. Cook was wide open for his second TD only because the Cards bit hard on a fake to Richardson in the 4th quarter. He also recovered a big fumble later that could have jeopardized the win. I think Richardson is high end RB3 depth and great flex option with his heavy use in both the passing (good value in PPR with 5 catches for 33 yards on 6 targets) and rushing game. The return of Isiah Pead next week might upset the status quo but I think Richardson performed well enough to keep the majority of the carries. A time split is no fun for anybody but I’d still start Richardson as a flex for next week and watch to see how Fischer throws Pead into the mix.
For the most part, the Rams WRs had quiet games. The Cardinals secondary is a great unit and adequately kept all these guys in check. Chris Givens had only 3 targets, while Austin Pettis caught 3 of 6 for 16 yards and Tavon Austin grabbed 6 of 7 for 41 yards. Bryan Quick almost had a TD but got dragged down at the goal line. After this game I still don’t know how to confidently rank the receiving options in St Louis. Austin had a couple good catch and run plays but just as often was jammed and dropped immediately. I think both Austin and Givens will have better games in the future and should be rostered in all leagues. Pettis and Quick are worth a flier in deeper leagues but probably won’t provide much on a weekly basis as the 5th and 6th options in the offense.