Posted on: December 23, 2011 10:39 am
Edited on: January 2, 2012 8:34 am
By Josh Katzowitz
Andre Roberts is a second-year receiver for the Cardinals, but if you haven’t heard of him, that’s to be expected. Arizona has been ignored for much of the year -- that’s probably because of San Francisco’s ridiculous season -- and even when the Cardinals got hot and started their current streak (they’ve won six of their past seven games), Roberts wasn’t a receiver on which the average fan focused.
He’s no fantasy football hero, and with Larry Fitzgerald sucking up all the attention for the entire Arizona receiving corps (and deservedly so), Roberts has quietly put together an effective season as the team’s No. 2 receiver. Not bad for a Division I-AA player who planned on going into the accounting field if pro football failed him.
On the season, he’s caught 41 passes for 487 yards and two touchdowns, but in the past three games, he’s begun to record impressive numbers. In Arizona’s upset of Dallas in Week 13, Roberts lead the team with six catches for 111 yards. Against Cleveland last week, he reeled in another six catches for 60 yards. With Fitzgerald in the lineup, Roberts won’t be the THE star, but still, he’s established a niche for himself for a team that seems to have plenty of potential.
We caught up with Roberts this week, and during our discussion, we touched on why John Skelton has played well after taking over the quarterback spot for Kevin Kolb, why Victory Monday can be so sweet and why playing football at the Citadel wasn’t the easiest road he could have taken.
Previous Five Questions (or more):
Sept. 16: Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White
Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson
Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman
Oct. 21: 49ers LB Aldon Smith
Nov. 4: Bengals S Chris Crocker
Nov. 18: legendary coach Bum Phillips
Dec. 9: Jets DE Aaron Maybin
1. CBSSports.com: With the 49ers playing well, not a lot of people paid much attention to the rest of the NFC West. But you guys have won six of seven, and you’re still here. How’d that happen?
Andre Roberts: Just working hard after our losses. It’s easy to get down after having six losses straight (from Weeks 2-8). We kept working at it, we kept grinding away.
CBS: But the 49ers got off to such a fast start and left everybody else in the NFC West behind. Obviously, that’s not something you guys can control except when you play the 49ers. But on a mental level, how tough is it when the 49ers just keep on winning and pulling away in the division?
Roberts: For the most part, we just worry about us. You can’t worry about other teams. As for us and the other teams in the NFC West, it just makes us play harder. We have to compete with those guys in order to get in the playoffs.
2. CBS: But after beating Dallas and then San Francisco a few weeks back, that must have been a big thing for you guys.
Roberts: It was big for us. It was keeping our win streak alive. It’s really about the team we play every single week. We came out and worked hard. Just tried to do our best. Dallas is good and San Fran is a good team. We just worked hard and had a good time.
CBS: But everybody works hard. I could ask every guy in the NFL, and they all would say they work hard every single week. What’s different about the Cardinals lately?
Roberts: I don’t know, maybe Victory Mondays. If we win, we get Mondays off. We get a little more rest. I don’t know, it’s just something about our team. We have a resilience.
CBS: What do you guys do if you have a Victory Monday?
Roberts: For the most part, we come in and get treatment and work out. Hot tub and cold tub. But when we have a Victory Monday, we don’t watch film from Sunday. We don’t have to watch that until Wednesday. We still come in and work out and everything. But it’s just the feeling of having that day off; it’s us getting something from winning the game on the weekend.
3. CBS: You guys still aren’t out of playoff picture yet. You’ve already beaten Dallas and San Francisco. You have to win out and get a lot of help. It’s still a longshot, but you’re still here.
Roberts: Definitely, last year at this point of the year, we had no chance of making the playoffs. We’re really treating every game like a playoff game. In order for us to have the opportunity, we have to win out. We can win out and still not go, but that’s why we’re treating every game like it’s a playoff.
4. CBS: Kevin Kolb was obviously the big money free agent to come in, and for John Skelton, that must have been tough. Now, he’s had to take over for Kolb a few times because of Kolb injuries. How did John get through that and still manage to be effective when he has to play?
Roberts: He responded great to it. I’m sure he knew we were going to have a free agent come in. Kevin came in and we wanted him to start. But John handled it great. Like everybody else, he just works hard. He’s definitely a hard worker, and when you go about it like that, you’ll come out on the right side.
CBS: Was there a little bit more familiarity with John because you guys came into the league together and because he played some quarterback last year with you guys?
Roberts: It helped a lot with the familiarity of him and his ball and the way it comes at you and him knowing the playbook. I’m sure it helped him a lot. We didn’t have the offseason, but being able to see the defense and to read them in preparation to know routes we were running, it helps with the timing.
5. CBS: You played at the Citadel. I want to know what that’s like -- with all the military exercises and the school and playing football on top of that. I don’t know how many guys in the NFL played at the Citadel, but I can’t imagine there are many. And I can’t imagine there’s anybody from VMI in the league. That has to be a tough existence in college.
Roberts: It’s really tough. At the Citadel, you have to deal with the military life and football and school. Most of the time you go to college, and you only have to worry about football and school. It can take a toll on you if you let it. That hardest year is that first year, when you’re introduced to it all. You come into football camp, and you go into school and everything is so new. It is tough.
The first-year guys everywhere have it rough. You don’t know the environment. You don’t know your teammates. You don’t know who your roommate is going to be, because our roommates weren’t football players but other people in the regular corps. All that stuff combined with classes and knowing what your major is, after the military exercises and then having to learn plays, it’s tough.
CBS: How did you do it?
Roberts: I had to fit in real quick. Football actually helps. It takes away some of the military duties. Football is a getaway and that’s how I used it. I used it to get my mind off school and military stuff. That what helped me the most.
CBS: I know both of your parents were in the military. Was that a route you were going to take if the NFL thing didn’t work out?
Roberts: I actually never wanted to go into the military. I went to a military college and my parents were military. I had a strict household growing up. I thought it wouldn’t be that hard, but I didn’t want to.
CBS: I read an interview with you when you were still in college, and you said that the only Division I offers you had were the Citadel and Coastal Carolina, and that since Coastal is by the beach, you didn’t think you’d be able to finish school. Is that true?
Roberts: I don’t know if I really needed the structure the Citadel gave me, but it helped me get through school and to grow up and to learn how to be a man. I didn’t know if I could have done that at Coastal.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 11:39 am
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit
Giants vs. Dolphins
One of the more confounding issues with the Dolphins this season has been the decline of their pass-rush. After recording 39 sacks in 2010 (tied for 10th best in the NFL) Miami entered last week’s game against Denver with just eight. They wound up recording seven sacks in the game, but that was in part because of Tim Tebow’s inability to make quick reads or get the ball out.
The Giants’ reshuffled offensive line has been hit or miss in pass protection thus far (more “hit” than “miss”). At Arizona in Week 4, their brilliant protection practically won the game. But the next week it waffled against Seattle’s underrated D-line (Chris Clemons rather enjoyed facing left tackle Will Beatty).
The Dolphins have one of the game’s best all-around edge-rushers in Cameron Wake, the reigning AFC sack leader. His leverage and tenacity give him strength that’s much better than his size indicates. Wake has been oddly quiet in non-two minute situations this season, though he abused Denver’s somewhat lumbering right tackle, Orlando Franklin, last week.
Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie is more polished than Franklin but has slower feet. He’ll need help. On the other side, Miami may have an under-the-radar pass-rushing talent in Jared Odrick, who somewhat resembles a thicker Jason Taylor.
Ravens vs. Cardinals
The Ravens offense owes everyone a good performance after ruining one of our 17 precious Monday night games. They should be able to get on track against a Cardinals defense that has struggled to generate a consistent pass-rush despite aggressive blitzes from new coordinator Ray Horton.
The intrigue is on the other side of the ball. Roughly two months after the trade and $20-million-plus investment in Kevin Kolb, some Cardinal fans are actually wondering if the 27-year-old quarterback should be benched. That’s the kind of ridiculous thinking that those who don’t actually contribute any skin in the game can get away with. Ken Whisenhunt knows that he’d never get another coaching job if he were to bench Kolb for John Skelton.
Kolb hasn’t been great, but he’s hardly the problem. Arizona’s “non-Fitzgerald” receivers have not been able to get open. General manager Rod Graves may deserve some heat for letting Steve Breaston get away this past offseason, though Graves’ logic was understandable at the time. Third-round rookie Andre Roberts showed intriguing potential as a speedy slasher last season.
Roberts looked like a future starter, and he cost a fraction of what Breaston would have cost. So Graves banked on him. Roberts has responded by failing to reach 40 yards receiving in every game this season. The good-looking prospect prior to Roberts, Early Doucet, has been equally ineffective.
Teams can sometimes get away with having only one quality wide receiver, but not if their offensive tackles stink. And there’s no denying that Levi Brown and Brandon Keith – two heavy-footed lumberers with inconsistent technique – stink.
So far Kolb has been awful when throwing off-balance. It’s doubtful he’ll get to be on balance much against a staunch Ravens D.
Bills vs. Redskins
Don’t pick the Redskins this week. It’s a matter of principle, if nothing else. No team should have expectations placed on it after making a change at quarterback and losing its top wide receiver, running back, tight end, left tackle and left guard in a two-week span. This will look like a preseason version of the Redskins. How will they cope?
It helps that Mike Shanahan’s system runs more fluidly with John Beck than it does with Rex Grossman. Beck is smoother reading the field and much better at play-action rollouts and bootlegs than Grossman. Accuracy is a bit of a concern, however. As for the other injuries and replacement ...
RB Tim Hightower (knee – out for season) had found his niche in this zone-run scheme, but he’ll be missed most in the passing game. Ryan Torain is a decent upright power-runner with a spring in his step, but he can’t stick pass-rushers the way Hightower could.
WR Santana Moss (hand – out 5-7 weeks) was Washington’s only creator on offense. He could generate his own space and turn an underneath catch into a 60-yard scamper. Either Niles Paul or Anthony Armstrong will replace him. Both have flashed at times, but neither is completely trustworthy. And, unlike with Moss, defenses won’t have to even ponder the possibility of double coverage.
TE Chris Cooley (finger, knee – out for season) was trending down and losing his role to Fred Davis prior to get hurting. Davis can fill Cooley’s receiving shoes. But the Redskins are now down a good in-line blocker in the run game. With Cooley and Davis, Washington had the benefit of balancing its formation with a viable pass-catching tight end on each side. This often compelled defenses to stay in basic front seven looks. New backup tight end Logan Paulsen won’t command that kind of respect.
LT Trent Williams (high ankle sprain – out 0-4 weeks) has missed most of the last two games. Pretty easy to identify the impact of his absence: backup Sean Locklear is experienced but much slower than Williams all-around.
LG Kory Lichtensteiger (knee – out for season) was one of the unheralded heroes for this team down the stretch last year and prior to going down in Week 6. Center Will Montgomery moved one spot to the left to fill Lichtensteiger’s void. Montgomery is interchangeable that way, but his replacement in the middle, Erik Cook, a seventh-round pick in ’10, was a noticeable downgrade coming off the bench. He had issues snapping the ball and was overwhelmed by defensive tackle Mike Peterson on a few plays. The Redskins can only hope those were Cook’s jitters working themselves out.
So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 8 games.
Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Andy Benoit, Anthony Armstrong, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Bills vs. Redskins, Bills vs. Redskins Preview, Brandon Keith, Buffalo Bills, Cameron Wake, Chris Clemons, Early Doucet, Erik Cook, Giants vs. Dolphins, Giants vs. Dolphins Preview, Jared Odrick, Jason Taylor, John Beck, John Skelton, Kareem McKenzie, Keep An Eye On, Kevin Kolb, Kory Lichtensteiger, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Logan Paulsen, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Niles Paul, Orlando Franklin, Ravens vs. Cardinals, Ravens vs. Cardinals Preview, Rod Graves, Roy Helu, Ryan Torain, Santana Moss, Sean Locklear, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Tim Tebow, Trent Williams, Washington Redskins, Will Montgomery