It’s safe to say Carson Palmer didn’t do too well in Oakland. However, he’s poised for lots of success in his new home.
Palmer, who was traded to the Cardinals this offseason, went 8-17 as Oakland’s starting quarterback. The Raiders were in a good position to win the AFC West in 2011, but Palmer didn’t do too well in Week 17 and the Raiders fell just short. Oakland went 4-12 in 2012, and the Raiders decided to head in a different direction with Matt Flynn seizing the reins at quarterback.
Due to the Flynn trade, the Raiders shopped Palmer, and Arizona was able to acquire its next quarterback by trading for Palmer. Palmer was interception-prone with the Raiders, as he threw 30 interceptions in 25 games with the Raiders. However, Palmer’s interceptions should definitely be cut down in Arizona. Palmer throws for a lot of yards and takes a lot of chances, which will benefit him in Arizona.
Why? Because of Larry Fitzgerald.
With a top-tier target in Fitzgerald, Palmer can take chances and not pay for it. Fitzgerald hasn’t been on a team with serviceable quarterback play since 2009, Kurt Warner’s final year. Warner and Fitzgerald went 4-2 together in the 2008 and 2009 playoffs, and the Cardinals were a final defensive stand away from winning Super Bowl 43.
It may be unfair to compare Palmer, who has played in two playoff games, to Warner, but he’s definitely an upgrade over Arizona’s recent quarterbacks. Palmer’s career passer rating is 86.2, which would have ranked 15th in the NFL. Arizona’s 2012 quarterbacks, who averaged a miserable 5.5 yards per attempt and threw 11 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, posted a collective 63.1 passer rating.
So, it’s safe to say that Palmer’s an upgrade at quarterback.
Fitzgerald didn’t have the ball enough due to the abundance of turnovers and inaccurate passes. With Palmer at the helm, Fitzgerald will receive the ball a lot more. Palmer throws the ball into tight windows and knows how to fit the ball in there, and Fitzgerald knows how to catch a ball in any situation; even if it involves taking a deafening hit.
With Fitzgerald and Ryan Swope (who ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and caught 72 passes for 913 yards in 2012), Palmer already appears to be set. The offensive line was a huge need before this offseason, and while there are still concerns the Cardinals are in a much better position there. Jonathan Cooper, the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick who surrendered zero sacks in 2012, will give the Cardinals’ offensive line a huge boost.
Arizona surrendered 58 sacks in 2012, but they didn’t have Cooper or Levi Brown, who was out for the season with a torn triceps injury. The line will definitely be better in 2013, which will benefit Palmer greatly. The offense is stacked with talent, as the Cardinals selected an abundance of offensive players in the draft.
Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington were both selected to help the needy running game and support free agent pickup Rashard Mendenhall. Ellington and Taylor can both break tackles, make plays in space and burst through holes, which will make them solid running backs. As long as the two can get going early and force opponents to focus on the run game, Palmer and the rest of the offense will be more effective.
Palmer will benefit from Arizona’s stellar offseason. The Cardinals addressed every offensive hole they had, including quarterback. If Palmer, who posted a marvelous 101.1 passer rating in 2005, gives Fitzgerald and his other targets a chance to make plays, he’ll succeed. In Oakland, Palmer had speedy targets, but they were injury-prone and drop-prone. Palmer was thrown into Oakland midseason, which makes developing chemistry hard.
Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Oakland’s receivers had time to develop chemistry with Palmer in the 2012 offseason, but a lot of the receivers got hurt and nothing went right for the Raiders. However, having a full offseason with Fitzgerald, Swope, Andre Roberts and his new receivers will be a huge help to Palmer.
The Cardinals weren’t a bad team in 2012. They had the 12th-best defense in the NFL and were a quarterback shy of being a serious competitor. For example, the Cardinals lost a remarkably ugly game against the Jets by one point (7-6), but if they had Palmer they likely would have won by multiple touchdowns. John Skelton and Ryan Lindley brought the team down last year, and Kevin Kolb was average at best.
Palmer has the potential to be much better than average, and his supporting cast will allow him to break onto the scene as one of the league’s better quarterbacks. Palmer has big-play potential, as he averaged a tremendous 8.39 yards per passing attempt in 2011. With Fitzgerald, Palmer’s passer rating, passing yards and touchdowns totals should skyrocket, and his interceptions should decrease.