Larry Fitzgerald is one of the NFL's most accomplished and feared wide receivers, with a resume that already ensures first-ballot Hall of Fame status in Canton someday.
However, as the Cardinals have struggled over the past few seasons with injuries and subpar play at the quarterback position, his transcendent talent has been stifled by being stuck in ineffective, downright putrid offenses. That is not the case this season with Bruce Arians as head coach and Carson Palmer at quarterback, and the offense has really taken off during the Cardinals' four-game win streak as everyone has fully adjusted and settled into the scheme.
"Any offense takes a little bit of time to become adjusted to it and figure out the nuances of it," Fitzgerald said. "It took a little while, but I think guys are really comfortable now with what we're doing and how to attack it and what we're looking for, identifying coverages and blitzes and things like that. I think we do a really good job. We're going to have to do a really good job this week. We have to try to keep the ball in our possession as much as possible to keep the Philly offense off the field."
The other major benefactor aside from Fitzgerald in Arians' offense has been Michael Floyd, the Cardinals' 2012 first-round pick who has really come into his own and emerged as a legitimate threat at wide receiver. With all the attention that will be devoted to stopping Fitzgerald on Sunday, the Eagles cannot gloss over the challenge that Floyd presents. Floyd is just one of many young, underrated players making an impact on offense for the Cardinals.
"It's helped our whole team," Fitzgerald said of the emergence of the team's young weapons on offense. "Anytime you have guys step up to the plate and make plays consistently, it just gives our team more options. … We're a team that's going to attack you across the board, and we feel confident in our matchups with our skill guys."
Charged with the task of devising a game plan to stop this surging Cardinals offense is Bill Davis, who served as Arizona's defensive coordinator during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
"I just have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Davis and his work ethic, he's one of the hardest-working coaches I've ever been around," Fitzgerald said. "He puts in the time, and he's such a quality human being. It's a lot of the same schemes and things look familiar, just with different personnel. He does a great job everywhere he goes. I miss him as a friend out here in Arizona."
Fitzgerald gets deployed all over the formation and will likely go up against both Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, since Davis likes to keep each on one side of the field instead of assigning them to a specific receiver. Fitzgerald has faced both before, though he became quite familiar with Fletcher due to their years as NFC West rivals.
"Both those guys are really battle-tested competitors," Fitzgerald said. "I've played against (Fletcher) I don't know how many times when he was with the Rams. We've battled a lot of times over the years. I got a chance to play against Cary a couple years ago in Baltimore. He's long, rangy, physical, can really run. He's got great ball skills and plays with a chip on his shoulder. They have a lot of guys who are talented in the secondary. Obviously Patrick Chung, he's played competitive ball up in New England for a long time, he's a hard-nosed tackler. Nate Allen is a great athlete back there at the safety position. We have a lot to be worried about dealing with this secondary, but I know (Davis) is going to have a great game plan for them."
Stopping Fitzgerald is but one of the many daunting tasks ahead for the Eagles defense as it prepares to build on the momentum it has built up the past two months. The stage is set for a classic showdown at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon, and the winning team will take that next crucial step in hopefully securing a journey to the postseason.
"Both teams have a lot to play for, have a lot at stake," Fitzgerald said. "It's going to be a great game on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to compete in it."