Carson Palmer has some work to do if he’s going to take the Cardinals back to playoffs for the first time since 2009, at least according to the 26 “anonymous” league insiders who helped ESPN’s Mike Sando compile his quarterback tier rankings.
Sando, who used to cover the NFC west for ESPN, got these 26 insiders to rank each of the 32 projected starting quarterbacks on a 1 to 5 scale with 1 being the best. Palmer ended up with a 3.12 average score which landed him in the middle of the 3rd tier, tied with his fellow NFC west quarterback Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams. They came in just behind Robert Griffin III and Andy Dalton.
The list makes for an interesting study of how people within NFL circles view the league’s starting quarterbacks. The top tier was filled with the usual suspects. There was a four way tie at the top between Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Mr. Discount Double Check himself, Aaron Rodgers. The last quarterback in the top tier will be a surprise to some. The last quarterback to make the top tier was Andrew Luck, which shows just how strongly people around the NFL feel about the young signal caller in Indy.
This brings me back to Palmer. Everyone knows that the NFL is a quarterback driven league and if the Cardinals want to emerge from the best division in football than they are going to need Palmer to have a career year. Can Palmer, at 34 years old, take his game to another level? Even if he can, will it be enough to put the Cardinals among the league’s elite? It’s not as crazy as you think.
Last season, as Sando points out in his column, Palmer had a pretty bad first half of the season, but he turned it around in the second half and was among the best in the league through his last eight games. So which is the real Carson Palmer?
When coach Bruce Arians first came rolling into the desert like a summer monsoon last season he brought with him a completely new offensive system to the Cardinals. Many of the players have talked about how difficult that first camp was as they tried to get a handle on the Arians offense. The numbers last season seem to back this up. The team, and Palmer specifically performed better as the year went on and the offense got more comfortable in the system. This offseason the story has been focused on how much better the team’s workouts have been now that they have a full year under their belts working in the Arians offense.
With Palmer being more comfortable in the offense this season, the Cardinals hope he can help take this offense to the next level. The team added two more speed receivers in the offseason, Ted Ginn through free agency and John Brown in the draft, showing that the team would like to open up the offense more this season. Add that to a steady diet of speedy back Andre Ellington and star receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd and you can see why the Cardinals brass is optimistic that their defense won’t be the only side of the ball getting attention this year.
If the offense can step up their game and the defense continues to be brilliant, the Cardinals just might have a shot to make the playoffs this season. If they do, I’m guessing you might see Palmer’s name moving up into that second tier for next years list.
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