After two impressive wins to start the season, fans and those who cover the Arizona Cardinals know the team could contend this year, but it’s always nice when the national writers point that out, too.
Carson Palmer and the Cardinals were featured in the New York Times Tuesday with a piece outlining the team’s success with Palmer under center.
Author Chase Stuart notes even though expectations were ho-hum for the Cardinals, they have put together some stats these first two weeks, along with last season’s games with Palmer, that are worth taking a look at.
But through two weeks, the Cardinals lead the N.F.L. with 79 points. And dating to the 2013 season, Arizona has a 14-2 record and has outscored its opponents by 160 points in its last 16 games started by Palmer. Over that stretch, Palmer has completed 365 of 568 passes for 4,479 yards and 32 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions in what amounts to a full season’s worth of action. In other words, Arizona with a healthy Palmer deserves to be in the discussion for best team in the league.
He credits this in part to Arians’ love of the passing game, but also credits the improvement of the run game for the Cardinals.
Arians is well known for preferring a vertical passing game, and true to form, Palmer’s average pass this season has traveled 11.02 yards in the air, the second farthest in the N.F.L. behind Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger. Making that figure even more impressive is that Palmer has yet to take a sack this season. And it’s not just the passing game: A year ago, Arizona had just 32 runs of at least 10 yards, the third fewest in the league. Through two weeks, the Cardinals have nine such runs, tied for third most.
Stuart also notes the Cards’ “next man up” philosophy that has allowed them to plug in so many holes despite injuries and losses to free agency.
The team has been successful despite that turnover because the Cardinals have been able to rebuild on the fly, adding explosive weapons like John Brown and David Johnson in the third rounds of the last two drafts. And left tackle Jared Veldheer, signed last year from Oakland, has helped stabilize the offensive line. After three off-seasons of roster reconstruction, Coach Bruce Arians has the pieces in place to run his system at peak efficiency.
The author end his piece, with this take:
Entering the season, pundits were not giving Arizona much of a chance of emerging as a Super Bowl contender. But as long as Palmer is healthy, the Cardinals should continue to be one of the league’s best teams.
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