For the first time since the summer of 2009, the Arizona Cardinals have a pretty sure thing at the quarterback position.
There is no Matt Leinart to lose the job to Derek Anderson.
There is no Kevin Kolb to hand the job to, albeit without him having proven much at the NFL level.
And there is no John Skelton to win an uninspiring quarterback battle.
Carson Palmer, who is an established player in the league, is the guy, and barring injury will be the starter Week 1 when the Cardinals visit the St. Louis Rams.
That knowledge makes things easier on coaches, fans and players alike. To an extent, anyway.
“You know who the for sure starter is so you always try to get the most reps with him,” second-year receiver Michael Floyd said after the team’s organized team activity Tuesday. “But it goes away because everyone’s just one play away from not playing so I think you’ve just got to have chemistry with both of them, just in case something happens.”
Indeed, even the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray, and while Palmer is penciled in as the starter, backup Drew Stanton may find his way onto the field at some point. But for now, the veteran of nine NFL seasons is trying to get used to working with a new set of wideouts.
The early returns, though, are very positive.
“It’s just good to have this speed on the field and the size of these guys we have,” Palmer said. “They’re all big and strong.”
Palmer acknowledged there is still a long way to go with regards to getting used to his new targets, and given that it’s just the middle of May there is still plenty of time to get acclimated. There were some interceptions Tuesday, which coach Bruce Arians attributed to players learning new roles and new teammates.
However, one player Palmer doesn’t have to learn much about is Larry Fitzgerald, who he’s admired from afar for many years via studying film.
“He’s working as hard in practice as he was in games,” Palmer said of what he’s learned from being up close with Fitzgerald as a Cardinal. “He’s a perfectionist, he wants to do things right every single time.
“He and I are going to get along great because I’m the same way.”
But it’s not just about Fitzgerald, and Palmer knows that.
“It’s of the utmost importance to be on the same page with Larry, but it’s of the utmost importance to be on the same page with every one of those guys because the ball can’t always go to him,” Palmer said. “I know that’s not what he wants to hear, but that’s the truth.”
The latter statement was said with a smile and drew some chuckles, but it’s true.
The quarterback added it’s important he gets on the same page with Floyd, Andre Roberts and anyone else who will be lining up with him, which is a process that is only now beginning.
“Getting on the same page is just about repetition, it’s not about anything else,” he said. “Everybody runs the route different, a little bit of a different depth; the timing’s a little bit different coming out of breaks.
“The only way you get that timing down is just repetition after repetition.”
A two-time Pro Bowler who has twice been to the postseason, when Palmer says something like that, you believe him. Whereas last year similar statements would have been met with doubt, the fact that Palmer has “been there and done that” allows him to command the room and allow those around him to feel confident. While no one will openly say it, that was probably lacking last season.
And for a guy like Floyd, who caught 45 passes from four different quarterbacks as a rookie in 2012, having a guy like Palmer under center is comforting.
“I like Carson’s leadership,” Floyd said of what’s different with the quarterbacks this season compared to last. “He demands a lot out of us and I feel like he’s the main guy out there, being very talkative. There’s a lot of experience in him, so a young guy like me coming into my second year, you know I looking a lot to him and focus because he’s been through it and the quarterback kind of makes everything roll.”