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A look at the new Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer

Football is officially back.

(Pause here for the purpose of giving you time to rejoice in whatever manner you deem appropriate.)

Time to see, not just speculate, but actually see if any to all of those moves the Arizona Cardinals made in the offseason are going to pay off. Of course, there’s still time to speculate.

My scales are out. Let’s weigh these new Cardinals one major acquisition at a time. Pros, cons, strengths, weaknesses, intangibles, hair color, lunch meat preferences, I’ll leave no stone unturned for making my best educated guess regarding what you can expect from Arizona’s prominent new faces this season.

We start with Carson Palmer.

Durability - Kevin Kolb might have actually worked out for the Cardinals had he the ability to stay on the field. Palmer is a sturdy 6'5" 235 pounds. Since 2004, he's played a full season every year but once. And the 2008 injury was an elbow issue, which is something that could happen to tennis players, golfers or gardeners. Agility - Palmer is 33 and has been damn near immobile for more than three seasons. He's not going to miraculously turn frisky. This is a feet-nailed-to-the-turf pocket quarterback, which means he better be durable, he better be tough, because he's going to get hit like one of those weighted punching bags for kids.
Intelligence - Carson Palmer doesn't take a beating because he knows how to get rid of the football. Despite being the slowest quarterback in the league, Palmer has only been sacked more than 26 times in a season once, and never more than 36 times. By comparison, perennial MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times last year and has been sacked 167 times over the course of his last 61 games. During that same time span, the much slower, dare I say plodding, Palmer has been sacked just 106 times. His new offensive line - I know Levi Brown is back at LT, Bobby Massie is coming off a solid rookie season at RT, and the team spent a top ten pick in the draft on a guard, but recent history can not be changed to protect the present. Over the last three seasons, the Cards offensive line has been the worst in the NFL at protecting the quarterback. Rodgers has been sacked an unreasonably high total of 167 times in 61 games? Well, Cardinal quarterbacks have been sacked 181 times over that same span of games.
Consistency - Palmer is a lock to complete six of every ten passes. Hasn't mattered how good or bad his line has played, or how consistent or inconsistent his receivers have been, Palmer has completed over 60 percent of his passes every healthy season since 2004. Consistency - Carson Palmer is what he is. A middle-of-the-road starting quarterback. He's posted an 80-plus quarterback rating every season since 2004, but he hasn't broken 90 since 2006. A consistent 80-plus score places you safely between the 14th and 20th-rated passers in the league. That's an upgrade from the post-Warner Cardinal era, but you should trust that Palmer isn't going to revert back to his Pro Bowl days of 2005 and 2006.
Professionalism - For the first time in his career, Carson Palmer won't have to babysit his receivers. Chad Johnson, the late Chris Henry, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy -- after relying on this string of malcontents, what a breath of fresh air Larry Fitzgerald must be for Palmer. Someone who works hard, who organizes workouts, who is more concerned with how he's going to score than how he's going to celebrate? Wow, Palmer must feel like Pretty Woman right about now. Whether or not you want to, you can probably picture him singing "Kiss" by Prince during a bubble bath. The Competition - Palmer represents an upgrade at the position for the Cardinals, but few NFL analysts would argue with the statement that every team in the NFC West not only has a better quarterback than the Cardinals, but a much younger one as well. The ceiling is made of thin glass in St. Louis, Seattle and San Francisco to accommodate the potential rise in play from their young signal callers, where Palmer's ceiling is made of reinforced steel.


Now that all has been weighed and measured, I have deduced that Carson Palmer can be viewed as a definitive upgrade at the position of quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. He'll take fewer hits, he'll endure more punishment, he'll provide improved leadership and he'll get Larry Fitzgerald back among the league leaders in receptions. However, at this stage in Palmer's career, he's not a game-changer. Oh sure, he could be worth an extra win or two, but he doesn't take the Cardinals from 5-11 to playoff contention, and the need for finding the quarterback to build the team's future around remains every bit as pressing.

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