Bruce Arians needs to involve Larry Fitzgerald in plan


One of the recent NFL tragedies has been Larry Fitzgerald rotting away in his prime these past couple of season with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Pro Bowl wide receiver had three 1,400-yard seasons with Kurt Warner from 2005 to 2009. He's had one since Warner retired and bottomed out with 71 receptions for 798 yards in 2012. That was Fitzgerald's lowest yardage total since his rookie season and the third-fewest number of receptions he's posted in his nine-year career.

The four touchdowns also were a career-low.

The Cardinals have to get better quarterback play in 2013 than what they got from Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley. New coach Bruce Arians is known for his work with quarterbacks, but can he get Fitzgerald involved again? Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne saw his numbers plummet with poor quarterback play in 2011 and finished this past season with 75 receptions for 960 yards and four touchdowns.

The Colts force-fed Wayne 194 passes this season -- tying him for second in the NFL with Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall -- in Arians' lone year as offensive coordinator. Wayne finished with 106 catches (second-most in his career), 1,355 yards (tied for second-most) and five touchdowns.

Having Andrew Luck under center certainly helped, but Arians was determined to get Wayne the ball.

"As a receiver, you can't hand it to them, you have to throw it to them," Arians recently told the Cardinals' official website. "They can double-cover him, and you don't throw it to him if he is double-covered and someone else is single-covered. You've got to take what is there as a quarterback, but you do have to get him the ball because he is such a tremendous talent.

"When I first met with Reggie, Reggie had been on the left side for 10 years. The first day of spring I put him over there on the right, and he looked like he had a palsy. I said, 'It'll come. You have to retrain your body here. Wait until I put you in the slot.' There was the buy-in."

We won't claim fired Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt ignored one of the NFL's best receivers. His 153 targets ranked No. 7 in the NFL this past season. The Cardinals, however, never schemed of a way to get Fitzgerald more quality targets, despite the quarterback play. Arians will have to find a way -- even if he's stuck with the same group of signal-callers.

Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.