All season, the Eagles have basically shut down their opponents' number one receiver.
The players who have had big receiving games against Philadelphia this season are not your typical stat-sheet stuffers – Chicago's Earl Bennett, New York's Victor Cruz, Dallas' Laurent Robinson and Washington's Fred Davis. Larry Fitzgerald, one of the league's most dynamic playmakers, will be looking to buck that trend this Sunday when his Cardinals come to town.
Since being drafted in 2004, Fitzgerald has the fourth-most regular season touchdowns in the NFL (68), the second-most receptions (651) and the second-most receiving yards (8,850). At 6-3 and 225 pounds, Fitzgerald is one of the most physically imposing offensive weapons in the league.
Eagles fans should not fret. The team ranks second in the NFC in passing yards allowed, giving up a trifling 211.8 yards per game through the air, and has three Pro Bowl corners who each have the talent to match up with a receiver of Fitzgerald's skill level.
The Eagles will base their defensive gameplan around stopping Fitzgerald. On Friday, starting safety Kurt Coleman discussed the measures the team will have to take to make that happen.
"He has all the tools necessary to go out there and do whatever he wants," said the second-year safety. "We're going to keep a close eye on him, but he's going to be able to catch a ball here or there. That's just who he is. We just need to limit him from making the big plays. It's going to be a constant battle throughout the game.
"We have to match physicality with physicality, so we're going to try to get someone up close on him every play. Wherever he lines up on the field, we'll compensate for that, and when he goes up strong for a ball, we'll have to go up for it even stronger.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has faced Larry Fitzgerald just once in his career. The two met in Week 3 of last season, when the four-time All-Pro corner still played for the Oakland Raiders. Asomugha won the day, limiting the perennial Pro Bowl receiver to just 26 yards on two catches. The Eagles shutdown corner will be looking for similar results Sunday.
"He's a guy who can play with the physicality of a 6-6 receiver, but he also has the quickness of a 5-9 receiver," said Asomugha. "He's one of the rare talents at receiver in the league, so obviously it will be a big challenge for us."
Last year, the 6-2 corner was on the field for every single Raider defensive snap, and lined up across from Fitzgerald every time he was on the field. Asomugha echoed Coleman's sentiment about how to approach the dynamic receiver, agreeing that "the best way to try and stop him is to be tenacious and to get in his face on every snap."
It remains to be seen whether Asomugha will be matched up exclusively upon Fitzgerald, as he was when he played him last season for the Raiders. But with the talent the Eagles have in their secondary, it will be difficult for the playmaking receiver to find a spot on the field in which he isn't lined up against a Pro Bowl defender.
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