OK Cardinal fans, I have watched the tape over again and as a fan I screamed and yelled at the screen for the entire game, and like you I may have cursed the name Carson Palmer a few times, but again after watching the action on tape I have to say I am encouraged of a few things.
I have noticed something that I have not heard anyone speak about when it comes to Palmer and his interception spree. I noticed that mostly every one of his interceptions have been thrown over the middle of the field trying to get that deep crossing route to Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I have looked at each pick and there is an issue with that route in particular, so I asked myself, what is the problem, is Palmer not reading the defense correctly, or is the receiver running the route at the wrong depth, or could it be a combination of both. Nevertheless it has been the problem.
In the game on Sunday against the 49ers in the first quarter the Cards were backed up to their own goal line, Palmer threw a pick from his own end zone, but the play before that he almost threw an interception trying to hit Fitzgerald on a quick slant. I noticed that the timing of that throw for that route was not as it needed to be, because the same play in the first quarter on the next possession when he was on time, Fitzgerald took it to the house for a 75 yard touchdown.
The point here clearly is Palmer has not thrown the ball on time over the middle of the field, either he is too fast at times, or he is late, for the most part I have seen him mostly late on the pass and in the NFL a split second late is enough time for a defender to pick off the ball, and a split second early yields a ball going directly to a linebacker like we have seen over the last few weeks.
Looking at the first interception this week, Palmer was suppose to allow Fitzgerald to clear the safety, in this case Palmer threw the ball way to early, and may have been feeling the rush, but should have waited a split second longer and that would have been a big gain on that play and maybe another long touchdown run. That was a play designed to cross clear more towards the sideline rather than directly in the middle, if you look at the play on tape you will see after the safety in that route there was not another defender in sight to the sideline going to the left.
In Palmer’s defense, a split second longer could have been a sack, but that seems to be the dilemma Palmer is playing in his head “how much time do I have, or get it out fast” the deep ball requires a little more time.
The second pick, Palmer was way to late when Fitzgerald came out of his break, timing routes are to be anticipated before the receiver even makes his break or cut, on those deep routes Palmer is holding the ball to long and waits for the receiver to make a full turn into his route, by that time the receivers route is predictable as to which way he will go and where the ball will be thrown, and that almost always will be an interception.
Had Palmer anticipated that route he would have thrown it a split second earlier and the defender may have been anticipating a different route and may not have come out of his back peddle, leaving that unpredictability to the route and the element of surprise, it may have been a tight window, but the timing is what makes those plays dynamic and almost unstoppable.
I think if the coaching staff has not gotten Palmer comfortable in throwing these routes they are calling, perhaps they need to scrap those plays for now and stick to what is working.
I think Palmer is going to be OK, practice and continued reps are the only remedy for timing routes, but if he gets it down, then I think this offense will stop leaving so many points out on the field.
When the timing is right it looks good and they get explosive plays, but Palmer needs to settle his feet down and trust the route and the receiver running the route, and be a split second more or less depending on the route, then he will be accurately on time and he will cut down the interceptions.
If you notice after each pick he is immediately in the play book and the Polaroid’s with Coach Tom Moore seeing exactly when he should have thrown a pass or if he should have went to another progression. What is fascinating to me is Palmer does not seem to ever get shaken about the interceptions, I kind of get the feeling he knows something we don’t know, he shows the confidence of one who believes in the system and he just has not gotten down a few details in timing and scheme, but will keep trying until he gets it right without getting mentally rattled.
That is easier said than done, so look for more of these picks until they get the timing down on these routes or they go away from the chunk play offense and go to a more turnover free conventional offense that features a lot of running and check downs and routes under 10 to 15 yards, an offense that allows the run game to dictate the throwing of the deep ball rather than the opposite.
But Coach Bruce Arians does not look like he is willing to change his style, so Palmer is just going to get this thing right or fade away trying, I am encouraged as a fan because I can see that things do take some time and they never go as smoothly in the beginning as they will with much time together, so fans, hold on a little longer,and hopefully they can make it into the buy week at 500, if so, I think after the buy week the Cardinals should be hitting on all cylinders, because yesterday’s game showed some promise, and the Cardinals are their own worse enemy right now.