At the end of 2012,
the Cardinals were looking for anyone to play quarterback. After making a move
and signing Oakland Raider quarterback Carson Palmer, many were confused as to
why an injury prone veteran was brought in. I recall the coverage of Kurt Warner's
potential return on ESPN for a good week. Fortunately for the Cards, Carson has
been the answer. In 2015, no quarterback played a more consistent season than
Carson Palmer. He led the 2015 Cardinals to a 13-3 record (19-3 in his
last 22 regular season starts, NFC West Championship, and NFC Championship
game. Arizona led the NFL in Overall Offense, and finished top five in both
scoring offense (2nd) and passing offense (5th).
The key to the success
of the Cardinals offense starts at head coach and play caller, Bruce Arians. This
offense was very disciplined with the third least offensive penalties in the
league. Winning games is a direct result of having disciplined veterans who
understand the importance of field position. Another key adjustment was moving
Larry Fitzgerald inside to the slot. This rejuvenated Larry's career as he had
his best season since 2011, and a career high of 109 receptions. It was a small
move, but it helped utilize Fitz's route running and catch in traffic
ability, as well as his above average run blocking. To line up in a 3WR set but
still have a tight end level run blocker is so valuable in terms of keeping the
defense honest to both the pass and run. Look no further than the game winning
to play of the NFC Wild Card to see how Larry can be used in these packages.
Back to Palmer, a peak
at the chart above reveals some interesting things about Palmer and his ability
as a quarterback and experience as a vet. What jumps off the page is that of
his 11 Interceptions, only 2 occurred in the second half of a game, this
matches up well with the fact that Carson's completion percentage stayed
consistent regardless of the score margin. Whether it was close or a blowout,
Carson stayed consistent in terms of his completion percentage and production.
He was forcing throws and making bad reads, which is important in closing games
out when momentum swings.
Make no mistake,
Carson is far from a "game manager" at the quarterback position.
Carson did a lot with his arm talent, as the Cardinals were 22nd in YAC, with
only 1,807 yards of the 4,671 yards came after the catch. Carson was confident
and routine in his game with a third down efficiency of 47% (putting them 3rd
in the league), as well throwing for 25 TDs to just 1 INT in the Red Zone.
Palmer was also quite efficient especially when throwing away from the middle.
When throwing to the right side of the field, Carson had 18 TDs to just 1 INT
as well as a 68% completion percentage. The only place he struggled was
throwing to the middle, where that percentage drops to 53.8% and 5:5 TD to INT
Ratio. A cause of that may be due to the receiving corps just being superior to
the tight end, and Bruce Arians stretching the field with 5 wide sets. Only 65
of the 537 attempts were to targets in the middle of the field. Palmer also
struggled with the deep ball, throwing well below league average at 37%, but
with age loses strength, and Palmer was never a superb deep ball thrower.
So, what can we expect
from a 36 year old in 2016? Expect them to win games. Palmer's experience
and Arian's offensive prowess should really shine in 2016. With the emergence
of a young star running back in David Johnson, as well as signing guard Evan
Mathis, this is a veteran offense, with enough young talent that should be able
to repeat as NFC West Champions. Areas of improvement need to be accuracy over
the middle, opportunities after the catch, and allowed sacks on 3rd down (14 of
the Cardinals 25 sacks allowed came on 3rd down), but there is little to argue
that Carson is still a super star quarterback who can get the job done.
Did anything surprise
you about Palmer's 2015? How will 2016 fare for the Cardinals? Let us know on
twitter @Playbook_Blog !!!
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