Few players cause more problems for opposing defensive coordinators than Larry Fitzgerald, and, perhaps most impressively, the Cardinals wide receiver has been doing it for more than a decade.
Now playing in his 13th season, Fitzgerald has more than 800 yards receiving through 11 games, well on his way towards another 1,000 yard campaign.
On Sunday, the Redskins will be tasked with stopping Fitzgerald, and Washington coach Jay Gruden knows how difficult that challenge will be come Week 12 when the Redskins head to Phoenix.
"He’s a great player. He uses his size, he uses his physicality and nobody talks about what a blocker he is," Gruden said. "He’s the best blocker in the NFL as a wide receiver and it’s not even close. So he’s just a great all-around football player. We’re just going to have to man up and body him up and try to get physical with him."
It's no secret that Josh Norman is the Redskins best cornerback, and on Wednesday, Gruden hinted that Norman might cover Fitzgerald regardless where the wideout lines up.
"He could in certain situations, there’s no doubt about it, and we have the luxury of possibly matching him up," Gruden said when asked if Norman could follow Fitzgerald into the slot.
The Cardinals, smartly, deploy the 6-foot-3, 225 lbs. Fitzgerald in the slot more now than ever before in his career, and it's working. Last season, he went for more than 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns, and is on pace for similar numbers this season.
Gruden did not exclusively commit to Norman covering Fitzgerald all over the field, but the 'Skins coaches have been reluctant to move their $75 million corner into the slot. While saying 'he could in certain situations' hardly guarantees Norman moves inside, it's noticeably different from things said earlier in the season.
It's also worth pointing out that Gruden then spoke highly of Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller and Quinton Dunbar as slot corner options. In the end, the coach believes the Redskins best bet to slow Fitzgerald is to get to QB Carson Palmer.
"It’s going to start with the pass rush," Gruden said. "If Carson [Palmer] has all day to throw and give Larry time to do double moves and stem you inside and vertical and then get back out or break it back across, I don’t care how big you are or how fast you are, it’s going to be hard.”
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