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Rookie Report Card: Week Thirteen

In my weekly column, we take a long look at two more rookies.  I will compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them.  Let’s continue this series off by looking back at two Arizona Cardinals – quarterback Ryan Lindley and the highly regarded wide receiver Michael Floyd after their week thirteen game against the New York Jets:

Ryan Lindley, QB ARI

My original thoughts of the quarterback during his time at San Diego State:  Lindley is a very intriguing quarterback prospect.  He played in the small school, San Diego State, under Head Coach Brady Hoke, who now coaches the very athletic Denard Robinson at The University of Michigan.

Let’s start with the young quarterback’s NFL quality skills:  Lindley is very accurate with the ball and may be the best in his class at throwing downfield, perhaps slightly better than Robert Griffin III.  His arm strength is almost at Griffin’s level, too.  He has good footwork, throws with good balance, shows a lot of leadership on and off the field, and plays through injury.

Lindley, however, has momentary lapses of judgement as he can throw bad passes when he is under heavy duress.  He tries to move around in the pocket, but sometimes he can get caught up in focusing on one particular receiver and not feel the pocket closing around him.  If you expect him to get away from pressure, you will be disappointed with the outcome.  For the majority of his collegiate success, the young signal caller had two good receivers, Vincent Brown (who now plays for the San Diego Chargers) and DeMarco Sampson.  They may have made him look more NFL ready than he really is.  He needs time to develop in the NFL and could use a few years of seasoning before making an impact.

Here is what I saw from Lindley against the Jets: He started off the game with a nice placed pass over the shoulder of Larry Fitzgerald.  After that first pass, I’m not sure if he had another NFL quality pass for the rest of the game.  For a reasonable look at his performance, let’s start with the little things he did right.  The young quarterback excelled at throwing quick strike passes with a three-step drop or less.  He showed almost zero fear throwing into tight coverage especially over the middle.  His tight end, Rob Housler, caught the majority of his completions (four) for a measly 15 yards all in the center of the gridiron.  Lindley demonstrated tremendous arm strength without the required control needed to be effective.

I have several concerns about his game. Saying he has control issues is a major understatement of his problems.  The young signal caller does not take into consideration the velocity of his short throws down the middle or in the flat.  Those type of passes do not need herculean power to get the ball on target; instead they need good technique and a soft touch. Throwing high to a running back in the flat before pressure arrives is unacceptable in the NFL.  Lindley appears to have communication issues with his receivers or they simply did not read the defensive coverage the same way.  When a young quarterback misses a wide open Fitzgerald in the red zone or anywhere else, the problem is not with the seasoned all-pro wide receiver.

He threw a few passes that I’m not sure if even he knew where they were going.  Lindley got rattled under the constant pressure, despite only being sacked twice.  He lacks the feel of the pocket closing around him.  His only interception of the day was an ill-advised throw into triple coverage for Floyd deep down the field.  Lindley desperately wanted to make a play to get them back in the game.  His performance was underwhelming completing ten passes out of 31 attempts for 72 yards and that before mentioned interception.  This brings his three game total to a 48.5% completion rate with 448 passing yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions.  I doubt he becomes fantasy relevant until 2014 if ever.  Hold onto him as a QB4-5 in larger roster leagues.

Michael Floyd, WR ARI

My original thoughts of Floyd at Notre Dame: After re-watching his 2011 games against South Florida, Stanford and Michigan, there were many things that stood out about Floyd.  Floyd has better game speed than timed speed.  He does a great job catching the ball at its highest point, shields defenders away from the ball, gets enough separation to make clutch receptions, and uses the sidelines well.

Floyd is a big, physical receiver that runs crisp routes, doesn’t give the defenders much to hit like a running back, and isn’t afraid to use his physicality.  He blocks well in the run game and is an effective hand fighter with defensive backs.  Floyd has amazing concentration as he showed with his TD catch in this year’s Champs Sports Bowl.  The young wide receiver may not start out as a true WR1, but could become one as he matures as a player.  He reminded me of a faster Keyshawn Johnson, but he will never be a burner.

Here is what I saw from Floyd against the Jets: He was not left wanting for targets as he was thrown to ten times.  Too bad Lindley was throwing him the ball as the rookie came down with two passes for 22 yards.  The first pass that was thrown his way was a 54 yard bomb that might have gone for a touchdown if not for the cornerback grabbing him before the ball arrived.  There were several passes that were either thrown entirely too high (a foot higher or more above his jumping radius) or too far down the field for him to reach (five yards or more).

Floyd showed some positive signs as he spent most of the day lined up in the slot getting a free release.  He managed to get wide open in the third quarter, but Lindley missed him with a pass that was thrown way too high and out-of-bounds.  The young wide receiver had an amazing sideline catch that got his team in the red zone.  He did a great job of dragging both feet and maintaining control of the ball.  In the run game, he was an asset blocking his man and maintained contact throughout the running plays.

Most dynasty owners expected more out of Floyd than 26 receptions for 282 yards and one touchdown on 54 targets after 12 games.  His statistics don’t look as bad when you compare them to Fitzgerald’s 56 catches, 650 yards and four touchdowns on 123 targets.  Until Arizona gets an average to decent quarterback, I’m not sure how much production you can expect from Floyd.  Keep him as a WR4-5, but don’t make a trade for or target him early in a start-up until the quarterback situation is settled.

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