Healthy Carson Palmer makes Arizona a contender
On the Arizona Cardinals’ second drive of their preseason game versus the San Diego Chargers Saturday night, Carson Palmer connected on passes of 57, 14 and 17 yards, as he quickly drove the team downfield for the first score of the evening.
Palmer didn’t even play all of the first quarter of the preseason matchup, and those were his only three completions, but his ability to make the throws that no other quarterback on the Arizona roster can make is what sets the team up as a legitimate Super Bowl contender entering 2015.
The Cardinals had a solid 2014 season, finishing 11-5 before losing in the wild card round of the playoffs to the Carolina Panthers, with all five of those losses coming with Palmer out of the lineup. That’s not to say that Palmer was the main reason for all of the team’s victories when he was on the field and healthy, but his ability to make plays downfield gave the Cardinals something that they struggled with under Drew Stanton, and was essentially non-existent under Ryan Lindley.
When he was on the field in 2014, Palmer graded positively on throws 10 yards or more downfield, including throwing three touchdowns to zero interceptions on throws 20 yards downfield and beyond. We saw that on Saturday night, first hitting the speedy rookie J.J. Nelson down the left sideline for the longest gain, before two passes to John Brown, including the 17-yard score.
The Cardinals are a potential playoff team once again in 2015, and this is mainly because of their strength as a defense. But having a steady quarterback in Palmer — who may not be in the NFL’s elite group of quarterbacks, but is still a solid player at the position — gives them the balance they’ll need to survive in the NFC West and potentially make a postseason run.