Carson Palmer is back and ready to play. But is he really back?
The Arizona Cardinals have pretty much had the defensive side of the ball covered in all areas for the last few years. The offense has been a roller coaster that has kept the Cardinals from reaching the next stage and become a true championship contender even though they have very quietly won 10+ games each of the last two years. Even with a playoff appearance last season, the Cardinals are still widely overlooked as a contending team.
They were the 5th best defense last season in terms of points allowed per game, led by defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson. A terribly relentless duo with incredible play making abilities that was a constant threat for all receivers that faced Arizona. And an experienced defensive lineman like Calais Campbell terrorizing all quarterbacks, it comes as no surprise that the Cardinals defense is very disciplined and dangerous. When it comes to the offense however, things aren’t as consistent. Specially if Carson Palmer can’t stay healthy.
Palmer only played 6 games last season and even after that, the Cardinals managed to somehow sneak by into the playoffs with a wild card spot. Palmer played 16 games the year before that and had a 24:22 touchdown to interception ratio, and looked to bounce back with a 11:3 ratio after only 6 games. Total opposite players it seems but the Cardinals offense has changed year after year and though it may seem that it has changed for the better it is also resting on the shoulders of a 35 year old quarterback. Though if he keeps getting sacked like he has been, with 93 sacks in 4 years (46 games), it’ll be even more of a challenge.
Palmer has been a dangerous quarterback all throughout his career. Even when he played for the Oakland Raiders with no true wide receiver threat to help him out. Palmer has certainly lost a step but he has 62.6% completion percentage in his career and hasn’t dropped below 60% at any time besides a 4 game season with the Bengals. He has surpassed the 3800+ yard mark in 8 seasons, 4 times going over 4k, and throwing over 22 touchdowns every season he finished healthy. At 35 however, and coming off an ACL injury he will need his weapons to help him out more. He hasn’t thrown more than 25 touchdowns since he left the Bengals, but with a trio like he has in Arizona, this year might be the one year he gets it done.
We all know about WR Larry Fitzgerald’s legendary hands and experience. If there is one guy who has been reliable and loyal through everything that Arizona has been through, it is definitely Fitzgerald. He however, has also lost a step, but thank goodness his route running and good hands have kept him in the league and as a threat every play. And then Michael Floyd is drafted as a potential replacement with undeniable talent. He might not have panned out yet but the inconsistent quarterback play might have something to do with his 13 career touchdowns in 3 years. His 6’3″ frame certainly does him a lot of favors but it won’t be enough to recover his career. He definitely needs Palmer if he wants to be successful in the league. And then came John Brown. Out of nowhere, Brown received all the praise for his awareness, speed, and discipline and he did not disappoint. The Arizona Cardinals have fallen in love with this kid and he has paid off for them. With a quarterback like Palmer under center, all these wide receivers should benefit greatly.
Of course that is not all the Cardinals have. A speedy running back with great hands, Andre Ellington will look to come back stronger and faster after dealing with injuries last season, and John Carlson has taken over the tight end position really well and will look forward to become a reliable of that offense and what it could really be.
Will Carson Palmer be the same man he was before he got injured? I certainly believe so. Not because of the talent and skills he possesses but because of the many weapons he has around him.