Andre Roberts: Up and Comer
By Joe Kilroy (@KilroyDFW)
A Blip on the Radar
Andre Roberts is someone I took note of heading into last season simply because he was going to line-up opposite Larry Fitzgerald as a starter in the Cardinals offense. I saw he had posted 51 receptions for 586 yards and 2 touchdowns as a second-year wide-out in 2011 and figured he may be worth a roster spot in dynasty leagues based on the outside chance he would build upon those statistics in the year ahead.
When he opened the 2012 season with 5 receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown I was encouraged, but wasn’t overly excited. He went on to record a touchdown in Week 2 however, followed that up with 3 receptions for 55 yards in Week 3, and then tore it loose with a six-catch, 118-yard, and two touchdowns outing in Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins.
Not only was Roberts off to a hot start, but the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0 and I thought maybe both he and the team were destined for great things in 2012. As it turns out the team went on to win just one more game over the remainder of the year. But while the Cardinals season may have gone kaput, Andre Roberts kept chugging along. When all was said and done he finished the year with 64 receptions for 759 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those figures may not be overly impressive to some, but when viewed within the proper context they tend to standout.
The Cardinals offense as a whole threw for just 3005 yards (fifth fewest in the league) and 11 touchdowns last year (second fewest). That means Andre Roberts accounted for 25% of the team’s receiving yards and 45% of their touchdown receptions. He finished the season with just seven fewer receptions and 39 fewer receiving yards than his potentially Hall of Fame worthy counterpart Larry Fitzgerald. And he did so while playing in one less game.
It’s also worth noting that Roberts compiled these statistics while having to work with four different starting quarterbacks throughout the season. None of whom started more than six games. And none of which were any good (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer). He also had to fend off highly touted rookie Michael Floyd throughout the year and did so rather successfully.
Enter Bruce Arians
Following the Cardinals 2012 collapse Ken Whisenhunt was relieved of his head coaching duties and replaced with Bruce Arians. Arians is well known for his tenure as the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator from 2007-2011, but is most recently noted for the outstanding job he did running the Colts 2012 offense and serving as the team’s interim head coach following Chuck Pagano’s midseason absence due to his fight against cancer.
Arians had a lot on his plate last season working with a rookie quarterback, running an offense, and being called upon to steer the ship for the Colts ailing head coach, but he managed to do a far better job than anyone could have expected. Not only did he hold the team together but he was a major factor behind the Colts 2012 playoff berth. It no doubt played a significant role in why he landed his first NFL head coaching gig this offseason.
In accepting the job as Arizona’s head coach Arians had two significant areas he had to address on the offensive side of the ball – the quarterback position and the offensive line. He solved the first issue by acquiring Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders via trade in early April. He then used the seventh overall selection in this year’s draft on guard Jonathan Cooper out of North Carolina to help solve the interior issues amongst the offensive line. For good measure Arizona added another guard in the fourth round with their selection of Earl Watford out of James Madison University.
In further addressing the Cardinals offensive needs Arians brought in running back Rashard Mendenhall – a player he had coached during his stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also added two more options amongst his running back stable with the selections of Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington during the draft.
While the Cardinals may be hard pressed to accomplish a one-year turn around following a 5-11 season all the offensive additions should serve to benefit the likes of not just Larry Fitzgerald but Andre Roberts as well.
Andre Roberts in 2013 and Beyond
To my surprise I have seen more than a few early season projections expecting a dip in production from Roberts during the upcoming season. I have to assume this is partly due to the belief Larry Fitzgerald will grossly occupy the lion’s share of production amongst Cardinals receiving targets while Michael Floyd and Robert Housler are being trumpeted as next in line for breakout campaigns.
As a result Andre Roberts appears to be getting the shaft. I wouldn’t be so quick to overlook or dismiss the fourth year wide-out however. Roberts has improved upon his reception and receiving yardage totals during each of his first three seasons in the league. And I believe there will be ample opportunity for him to carry on with that trend in the year ahead.
For the first time in his career Roberts will be working with a quarterback actually worthy of being a starter in the NFL. He’ll also be playing in Arians open offensive attack which will allow him to thrive as either the starter opposite Larry Fitzgerald or as the team’s primary slot receiver.
And not only does Roberts possess the athletic ability to be a strong component within the Cardinals offense, but he has a good head on his shoulders as well. He works hard and has garnered praise not only from the Cardinals brass but also from his teammates. Larry Fitzgerald has offered high praise of Roberts in the past and he’s drawn comparisons to Hines Ward at times for his strong blocking abilities as a receiver.
I’m not about to proclaim the fourth-year receiver out of the Citadel will have a true breakout campaign this season, but he has just as likely a chance at it as Michael Floyd or Robert Housler – and even more so in my opinion. At worst I believe he will come close to matching the production he put forth in 2012. But he also stands a very real chance of becoming one of Carson Palmer’s favorite targets in the same manner Brandon Myers was for the veteran quarterback last season.
Beyond this year Roberts’ future is somewhat uncertain. He is in the final year of the four-year contract he signed as a rookie. If he doesn’t remain a Cardinal however I tend to think he’ll find success elsewhere and could be a sought after commodity if he reaches free agency.