Trying to evaluate preseason football is a dangerous proposition. Having said this, everything that follows is said with the hope that springs eternal during preseason. Also, keep in mind one of my favorite mantras: It’s only preseason, but it sure beats the alternative.
The quarterbacks played very well at Lambeau Field. Carson Palmer looked like a starting QB in the NFL. Drew Stanton looked like a guy that believes he can be a starting QB in this league. And even Ryan Lindley threw the ball with assertion and aptitude.
What I liked most about the quarterback play was their willingness to throw the ball down the field. The Packers were keeping the middle of the field (MOF) closed while playing a three-deep zone or man with a safety in the MOF. This put the Cardinals’ receivers 1-on-1 outside. When the Packers’ corners walked up and pressed the Big Red’s receivers, whether playing man or zone, the receivers went deep. Although the Packers probably forced their corners to play this technique, hoping to see what they could do, Cards’ quarterbacks took the opportunity to oblige Bruce Arians’ Bomb-City philosophy. Carson Palmer exploited the Packers coverage and hit Andre Roberts for 38 yards and a TD.
My other observation of the QB’s Friday night had to do with a component of offensive football that has been relatively absent for the last couple of seasons: the back shoulder fade. The back shoulder fade — where a QB throws behind a receiver that is running a fade, knowing that the receiver can see the ball and the cornerback typically cannot — is almost indefensible. The corner cannot be right. Either the receiver gets a clean release and on top of the corner and the Q throws the fade over the top, or the corner is on top of the receiver or even with him, and the Q throws the ball behind the receiver — intentionally. Thus, the back shoulder fade.
Stanton threw a handful of these passes and so did Lindley. Stanton threw a touchdown pass to Jaron Brown on a back shoulder fade and it was easy to see that Arians and his staff have made this tactic a point of emphasis for 2013. That emphasis should pay big dividends down the road with receivers like Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, whom are big receivers that have shown a knack at winning jump ball opportunities.
Finally, with 27 attempts, not one of the Cardinals’ quarterbacks threw an interception. Protecting the ball is paramount and coach Arians does not suffer blatant mistakes or shoddy excuses very well. The best part is the quarterbacks know this and it has left an indelible mark on their collective psyches.
It’s one game, and preseason at that. Churches do not need to be constructed on such hollow ground but allow me to invoke the mantra again: It’s only preseason but it sure beats the alternative.