Can Cardinals survive without Carson Palmer?
With five minutes left in the first half against the Rams in London, quarterback Carson Palmer stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush, and lofted a pass downfield. The pass was intercepted but the biggest part of the play was Palmer getting hit by linebacker Alec Ogletree. The hit knocked Palmer out of the game, but worse than that, it knocked the quarterback out of the lineup for the near future. A broken left arm is the diagnosis and Palmer is expected to miss the remainder of the season. How will this change things for the Cardinals? Here are the two biggest takeaways from Carson Palmer’s injury.
Russell Wilson is quietly having an MVP caliber season
Is it Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert?
When Palmer left the field against the Rams it was career backup quarterback Drew Stanton who took over. Stanton struggled mightily against the Rams, finishing the day completing just five passes for 62 yards and an interception. Stanton spent time as starter over the last three seasons, playing in a total of 21 games since 2014. During that time he has thrown for nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing just 51.8 percent of his passes.
The other option for head coach Bruce Arians is former first round selection, Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert spent the last three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, throwing 16 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, while completing 60.6 percent of his passes. He has not yet played a regular season down for the Cardinals, but did play well enough to make the squad during the preseason.
In the end it comes down to ceiling versus safety. Stanton knows the offense better that Gabbert, having been with the Cardinals during the entire Arians era. Gabbert is the more gifted quarterback with the stronger arm, larger build, and better running ability. Both quarterbacks have struggled mightily with their accuracy. So far Arians has said he will be going with Stanton at the helm moving forward, however, if the offense continues to struggle there could be a short leash in favor of Gabbert.
Time to Adjust the Gameplan
Part of what made the loss to Los Angeles startling was the lack of a run game. The week prior, Adrian Peterson ran all over Tampa Bay and added a pair of scoring runs. The following week saw less than 30 yards gained on the ground. The Cardinals ran the ball just 12 times in a game that quickly got ugly, in part due to a lack of balance on offense. With Palmer out, the passing game will suffer without the maestro distributing the ball, the run game needs to take over and be a focal point. The offense has newly acquired Adrian Peterson to carry the football and a relatively healthy offensive line. Now is the time to make the move.
The Cardinals have a strong left side of the line with D.J. Humphries at tackle and guard Alex Boone. Both men are large and athletic and have shown the ability to push the run game. The issue, as it has been all season, is the rest of the offensive line. A.Q. Shipley, Evan Boehm, and Jared Veldheer have struggled quite a bit during the season. The right side of the line doesn’t need to be great. They just need to be decent to make sure the Cardinals run game gets going. The ability for Arizona to run the ball will dictate how their season will unfold over the next few weeks. With Palmer out for at least a quarter of the season, the Cardinals need to find a way to put up points and give the defense some time to rest. The run game will need to be the difference.
The Arizona Cardinals have a tall task ahead of them. The injury to Palmer has put any possible playoff push in doubt, but the team still has the talent on defense to keep them in most games. If the offense can just do enough and keep turnovers to a minimum, the team has a puncher’s chance. Time will tell if this will sink Arizona or if the team can rally together and do something special.