QB Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
HT: 6-5, WT: 230, Born: 12-27-1979, College: Southern California, Drafted: Round 1, Pick 1
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Stats and Week 21 Projection
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He was not listed on Friday's injury report.
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Game SummariesWeek 1 at STL - Even after only one game, Palmer's play in the season opener quickly reinforced GM Steve Keim's decision to trade for the veteran signal caller. With a QB rating of 96.6, Palmer found success throwing at every level while spreading the ball around, never locking in on just one read. Two perfectly placed touchdown throws to Larry Fitzgerald and a 44-yard jump-ball brought down with a spectacular one-handed catch from Michael Floyd were the highlights of the passing day, but Palmer was sharp throughout, consistently finding Andre Roberts and guiding the team to a 50% conversion rate on 3rd downs. Palmer's lone interception appeared either to be a mix-up with WR Larry Fitzgerald, or simply an under-thrown ball and despite seemingly constant-pressure off the left edge, Palmer often had a clean pocket to step into. Palmer was able to continually fit the ball into tight windows showing great accuracy, with his only bad miss apart from the interception coming on a wheel route to rookie RB Andre Ellington, throwing to Ellington’s outside shoulder while the running back was looking for the ball on the inside.
Week 2 vs DET - Almost everything about the Cardinals week two victory over the Detroit Lions stood in contrast to their loss the week prior. The result represented the most important contrasting element, but that theme also manifested itself in nearly every single player on the field. While nearly perfect in his week one effort, Palmer struggled mightily on Sunday, with a performance even worse than his pedestrian stat-line indicated. In addition to throwing an inexcusable interception which was returned for a touchdown, Palmer missed on a few big plays including a potential touchdown early to Larry Fitzgerald down the sideline, while only converting on 1 of 11third down opportunities (a few others were “converted” due to penalty). Palmer was able to put together arguably his best drive with the game on the line late in the 4th quarter, and it should be noted Palmer was essentially without his best weapon. A hamstring injury severely limiting Larry Fitzgerald’s effectiveness, even causing him to miss most of the 3rd and all of the 4th quarter. Fitzgerald’s injury and its effect on the Cardinals’ offense going forward is something worth monitoring for fantasy owners and fans alike.
Week 3 at NO - After a strong, methodical 80-yard march down the field to score on the game’s opening drive, Carson Palmer was repeatedly let down by both his protection and play calling, resulting in his worst outing as Arizona Cardinal. Constant pressure off the edges and an all-too-often collapsed pocket clearly affected Palmer as the game went on, increasingly throwing off his back foot and causing many of his passes to sail high and wide. Adding insult to injury, and showing an unwillingness to adjust, Bruce Arians all but abandoned the run and repeatedly called for long-developing plays which never materialized due to the line’s inability upfront. Palmer also appeared out of synch with recently returned TE Rob Housler, only connecting on one of his three targets and with another resulting in Palmer’s first interception.
Week 4 at TB - Carson Palmer, much like the Cardinals offense as a whole, sputtered again for the second straight week, failing to convert a 3rd down in the entire first half, and turning the ball over twice. The offensive woes of course extend beyond Palmer; play-calling was a major issue early, which Head Coach Bruce Arians’ copped to in his post-game address to the media, and the running game featured more fumbles than runs eclipsing 10 yards. Both of Palmer’s interceptions came on throws off his back foot, a troubling trend over the last few weeks, and likely a result of the offensive line’s spotty protection. The game’s opening play featured a busted blocking assignment which led to a Gerald McCoy sack, and while that turned out to be the only sack surrendered all game, it did appear to have an impact on Palmer’s confidence. Palmer did play better as the game went on, saving many of his best passes for the most important moments, including a perfect 13 yard touchdown strike to Larry Fitzgerald to tie the game late.
Week 5 vs CAR - Continuing his trend of the last 2 games, Carson Palmer was downright terrible in Sunday’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Palmer threw three interceptions on the day, with two directly costing the Cardinals points. His first, on the Cardinals opening drive of the game, was an underthrown ball to WR Michael Floyd on a flea-flicker when Floyd had beat his defender deep, while both of others came when trying to force the ball to a bracketed Larry Fitzgerald. Palmer did play better in the second half, no doubt aided by Bruce Arians’ commitment to the run game for the first time in 5 weeks, but Palmer still appears unconfident in his offensive line and often unwilling to step into his throws. The line did look improved, with new addition Bradley Sowell having a solid first start at left tackle, but interior pressure was still an issue for the Cardinals. The Panthers possess one of the best defensive lines in all of the NFL, so credit must be given, but the interior line for the Cardinals must begin to block better and allow Palmer to step up into the pocket and deliver strikes. Palmer’s late 7-yard TD pass to Jim Dray was nothing more than a confidence boosting effort as the Cardinals already had the game well in hand.
Week 6 at SF - Palmer continued his downward trend Sunday at San Francisco, starting the game with two first-quarter interceptions. The same mechanical issues that have plagued Palmer much of the year-staring down receivers and not stepping into throws, causing them to lack zip and sail high- once again proved to be the problem. Despite the early turnovers, an incredibly stout defense kept the Cardinals in the game and at times Palmer did shine. Both of Palmer's touchdowns- a quick slant and long run to Larry Fitzgerald as well as a ten yard corner route to the back of the end zone for Michael Floyd- required nice precision, and a 53 yard pass down the sideline to Britton Golden was caught perfectly in stride, and would have been a touchdown had the receiver been able to keep his feet. Palmer, for the first time in weeks, was able to work the deep ball, but time and time again intermediate passes sailed high and drives stalled as a result. The offense appears close to clicking, but until the careless turnovers end we will continue to lament their sunday performance.
Week 7 vs SEA - Palmer had several factors working against him in this game. Facing one of the leagues best defenses with a hobbled star-receiver, and a much maligned offensive line losing its best player, Daryn Colledge, mid-game would undoubtedly effect any quarterback. And once again Palmer proved unable to raise to the level of play of those around him, nor correct the same mistakes that have plagued him all season long. Palmer's first interception involved a little bit of bad luck and an excellent play from safety Earl Thomas, but was also under-thrown and poorly located. His second was simply an inexcusable decision after a protection breakdown. Palmer later missed an open Andre Ellington in the end zone and only found success after Seattle built up a large lead and began playing preventative coverage. Since starting strong week one, Palmer has been about as abysmal as every other Cardinals quarterback in the post-Kurt Warner era, and its fair to question if he gives this team the best chance to win each week. The Cardinals have ten days before their next game, and their bye-week after, making this an ideal window to consider a change.
Week 8 vs ATL - Carson Palmer played his best game since Week 1, throwing for more touchdowns than interceptions for the only the second time this season. Palmer’s numbers Sunday were nothing spectacular, but with a run game producing more than 200 yards, and a defense which forced four turnovers, spectacular was not needed. Palmer was able to recover from his first quarter interception, climbing in the pocket nicely to deliver strikes on both touchdown throws, and finally connecting on one of Bruce Arians’ lauded “chuck plays” hitting speedy newcomer Teddy Williams for a 51 yard reception that should have been another touchdown if Williams had better ball skills. Most impressive of Palmer’s performance Sunday was the return of his accuracy on short and intermediate routes. For the first time in weeks Palmer was consistently stepping into his throws, hitting his receivers in the numbers, not throwing over their heads. Whether this continues or not when the Cardinals play teams with a more forceful pass-rush remains to be seen, but qualifies as a positive note to enter the bye week on.
Week 10 vs HOU - If simply browsing the box score, Carson Palmer appeared to be nothing more than average again on Sunday. These numbers, however, lack context, and with that applied, Palmer had one of his better outings of the season. Despite an over-matched and often-porous offensive line, Palmer was only sacked once on the day. Yes, his interception was indicative of a season-long problem (once again under-throwing his receiver on a go-route) but Palmer remained resilient. Two long field-goal drives and a beautifully thrown touchdown to Andre Roberts (despite taking a huge hit on the play) proved enough for the Cardinals to win another one. Doing ‘just enough’ on offense appears to be the recipe for success for a team with a defense as dangerous as the Cardinals.
Week 11 at JAX - Carson Palmer had his best game as the Cardinals quarterback, not turning the ball over for the first time this year, moving the chains without any run game support, and connecting on a few “chunk plays” Coach Bruce Arians so often talks about. It is no coincidence Palmer’s best game also featured the team’s best pass protection all year. Yes, Palmer was still sacked 3 times, but to a degree that is expected when dropping back to pass 42 times. What was different Sunday however was where the pressure came from. Both tackle spots have struggled mightily all year, and that didn’t change Sunday, but the interior line protected beautifully, allowing Palmer to step up into a clean pocket, even with pressure coming from the edges. All too often pressure from the middle forced Palmer to throw off his back foot, resulting in many of the errant short-intermediate passes that have plagued this offense all season. On Sunday Palmer was able to consistently step into his throws and deliver accurate strikes. While it’s tempting to buy into the hype coming from the team that the offense is now finally in sync, it must be noted that this effort came against one of the league’s worst defenses. Whether this can continue when the team faces stiffer competition remains to be seen, but this has to be a major confidence boost for this offense as they fight for a wild card spot.
Week 12 vs IND - For much of the Cardinals current win streak, any praise came with a side of skepticism. Nearly every compliment was followed by an offsetting clause about the quality of the opponent, or the inability to put together a complete game in all phases. While those weren't unwarranted statements, there is no offsetting statement for Sunday's dominant win against the Colts, led by an incredible Carson Palmer performance. Palmer once again was interception-free, arguably his most important statistic, but what will never show up in box scores was equally impressive. Palmer's pocket presence was exceptional Sunday, highlighted by his second touchdown of the day, read coverages in a way the Cardinals' haven't since Kurt Warner, and at every point of the game appeared in total control of the offense. No longer are the quarterback and his wide receivers struggling to get on the same page. This offense has developed the trust and timing sorely missing from the first half of the season and when the much maligned line keeps Palmer clean, he still delivers strikes as well as anyone. With regards to fantasy rosters, Palmer likely remains a high-end QB2, but one owners can confidently play in a pinch. For Cardinals' fans however, double-digit wins and a playoff birth are firmly in sight, something not many believed possible even just a month ago.
Week 13 at PHI - Palmer put together an impressive afternoon for fantasy owners, notching 3 scores along with over 300 yards passing, but came up short in an effort to get a crucial road win and keep the Cardinals’ playoff hopes alive. Both of Palmer’s interceptions came as a result of under-throwing deep balls, a reoccurring problem all season. To add insult to injury, both plays would have been easy touchdowns had Palmer put less air under the throw. Palmer was also stripped on the first series of the game, but blame for that lies with an offensive line that struggled to protect all day. The issues Sunday extended beyond the quarterback, the offensive line was abysmal and multiple receivers took turns dropping passes, but when two sure touchdowns end up in the other team’s hands, it’s hard to look elsewhere when assigning blame.
Week 14 vs STL - In every conceivable way, Carson Palmer played a fantastic game Sunday against St. Louis. When it was revealed after the game by head coach Bruce Arians that Palmer had not thrown a single pass all week in practice due to an elbow injury suffered the previous week against the Eagles, it becomes more difficult to find an accurate superlative to describe his effort. Palmer’s numbers in the end were not gaudy, but his efficiency was exceptional. Palmer guided an offense that converted over 50% of third down attempts, never once committed a turnover, and seemingly moved the ball at will. Credit of course must be given to those around him as well. Arians’ play-calling was balanced and aggressive, and most importantly an often overmatched offensive line pass-blocked exceptionally well against one of the best pass rushing fronts in the NFL. Palmer had one bad pass on the day, under-throwing TE Rob Housler on a seam route that would have likely led to a touchdown had Palmer been able to properly lead his receiver. Its quite conceivable this was a result of Palmer’s elbow injury, however this issue has plagued Palmer all season long, continually putting too much air under his deep throws. All in all though, it was an exceptional effort by Palmer and the Cardinals offense as a whole.
Week 15 at TEN - Palmer played another exceptional game, completing 66% of his throws, often into incredibly tight windows, and displaying a level of toughness rarely credited to the veteran signal-caller. Once again, Palmer was interception-free, the most telling stat of his games. When Palmer doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s as good of a pure passer as anyone, even in this late stage of his career. Palmer only attempted one deep pass, an incompletion thrown Andre Roberts’ way, likely an indication of lingering issues with his elbow injury, as well as an excellent understanding from Coach Bruce Arians that the offensive line simply cannot hold up well when Palmer takes seven-step drops. What made Palmer’s effort all the more admirable was he did it without one of his top targets in TE Rob Housler, and a noticeably gimpy Michael Floyd who made minimal impact on the game.
Week 16 at SEA - Its impossible to say Carson Palmer played anything but very poor in Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. Errors were made around him, ones that the #1 defense in football was able to exploit, but none come close to exonerating Palmer for some very poor decision-making. 3 of Palmer’s 4 interceptions featured crucial errors by other members of the Cardinals offense, and the 4th required an incredibly athletic play to tip the ball in the air for another Seahawks defender to haul it in, but even still, all could have been avoided had Palmer been smarter with the football. They often say however, “winning cures all,” and that is certainly true for Palmer, especially when you’re able to overcome such an abysmal game and throw a fantastic game-winning touchdown. Palmer’s day ended on a high note, with a 31-yard touchdown pass capping off a fantastic drive by the veteran signal-caller, one that showed poise, resiliency, and a few phenomenal throws. The Cardinals’ defense were the stars of Sunday’s game, but Palmer overcame a lot to eventually lead his team to an incredible, improbable victory, and credit for that must be given.
Week 17 vs SF - Despite a last-second loss, and a playoff-less season, Carson Palmer ended his first season with the Cardinals on a high note. Throwing for over 400 yards on one of the leagues’ best defenses, including four completions of 30 yards or more and two touchdowns was a necessary and impressive bounce back from his disastrous day in Seattle the week prior. Palmer’s lone interception of the day, midway through the first quarter, was costly and easily avoidable, as the 49ers made no effort to disguise their zone coverage before the snap and yet Palmer still forced the ball into triple-coverage. Those throws will always occur with Palmer, at this later stage of his career he simply is who he is, but it’s that same arm which threw a brilliant 34-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts late in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Palmer was also the victim of some costly early drops, including multiple from Michael Floyd in the first half, as well as an easy touchdown that went right through TE Rob Housler’s hands. While Palmer is far from an elite Quarterback, his season marked a drastic improvement from the carousel of quarterbacks the Cardinals had featured in the post-Warner era, and with a full year of understanding Bruce Arians’ complex offense, as well as the rhythms of the wide receivers, there is a lot of optimism heading into the off-season that Palmer should see a statistical improvement in the 2014 season.