Eagles CBs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Cardinals WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Early Doucet
Forget Larry Fitzgerald’s jaw-dropping lack of production in the Cardinals’ stunning upset of the Patriots in Week Two (only one catch for four yards, his lowest output since his rookie season in 2004). With his rare combination of size (6-3, 218), speed and strength, large hands and tremendous hand-eye coordination and uncanny feel for the game nurtured during his days as a ball boy for the Vikings, there is no doubt Fitzgerald is still considered one of the league’s elite receivers.
Fitzgerald showed just how dominant he could be in the Cardinals’ 21-17 come-from-behind victory over the Eagles in Week 10 last season when he made life mostly miserable for Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie with seven catches for 146 yards, including a pair of TDs and an incredible third-down, 37-yard catch just short of the Eagles’ goal line in Arizona’s game-winning drive.
In New England this past Sunday, the Patriots used a fair amount of double coverage on Fitzgerald, with one defender solely assigned to shadow Fitzgerald, often with his back to the action on the field. Later giving Bill Belichick credit for the sound strategy the Patriots' head coach used to contain him, Fitzgerald said he didn’t mind at all being a decoy and opening things up for the Cardinals’ other pass-catchers, particularly TE Todd Heap (knee, check status), who had a team-leading five catches for 62 yards.
Don’t be surprised if extra coverage by the Eagles on Fitzgerald opens up a fair share of opportunities this Sunday for Roberts and Doucet. Rather quietly, Roberts has become a steadily productive weapon. His two-yard TD catch vs. the Pats was his fourth score in the last six games dating back to last season.
Both Roberts and Doucet were key weapons in Arizona’s Week 10 win over Philly last season. While Roberts had four catches for 55 yards, Doucet snared the game-winning five-yard TD with 1:53 remaining. Doucet has a flair for making tough, clutch catches, as was the case in New England on his 9-yard catch for a first down at the end of the third quarter despite taking a vicious hit.
Both Asomugha, a high-profile free-agent addition last offseason, and Rodgers-Cromartie, a former first-round pick of the Cardinals, have the length necessary to handle Fitzgerald. But Asomugha has generally been a liability in an otherwise very solid Eagles secondary. He’s been penalty-prone and has gotten toasted on more than a few occasions, including on Ravens WR Jacoby Jones’ TD catch this past Sunday.
In last year’s game vs. Arizona, Asomugha had an interception, but he also got hit with an offsides penalty on a third-down incompletion that extended the drive, leading to Fitzgerald’s seven-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter.
In that same game, Rodgers-Cromartie had three tackles and a sack. A special athlete with fluid hips and great speed, "DRC" could stand to be a bit more physical.