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ESPN: Unsure of confidence level in Cardinals’ Carson Palmer

Arizona Cardinals NFL football quarterback Carson Palmer (3) runs drills during a voluntary team workout, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. The Arizona Cardinals have five quarterbacks on their roster. One big reason is a concerted effort to prevent Carson Palmer from doing much of anything in the offseason to preserve the arm strength of the 37-year-old quarterback. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Every year, ESPN puts together a quarterback ranking based on confidence in each passer.

The concept, as noted, relies on approaching each player asking not just if you think they are a good player, but if you believe they can stay healthy the entire season and for how much longer they will lead the team. The quality of the backup QB comes into play, too.

If you talk to the Arizona Cardinals, there is no shortage of confidence in veteran Carson Palmer. Though his 2016 was not as good as his MVP-level 2015, he still passes for 4,233 yards and 26 touchdowns. Furthermore, the team’s decision to have him not practice on Wednesdays to keep him fresh for Sunday seemed to pay dividends, as some of his best performances of the season came over its final handful of games.

Still, he is 37 years old and considered retirement this past offseason because, as he said, he just was not sure how his body would respond from a rigorous and taxing NFL slate.

Therefore, it likely comes as little surprise that in this edition of ESPN’s QB confidence rankings, Palmer comes in at No. 14, leading the “Confidence Declining” category.

When your performance declines in your age-36 season, that doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Carson Palmer’s completion percentage last season was his lowest since 2011, when he was a Raider. (Remember Palmer as a Raider?) His yards per attempt were his lowest since 2010, when he was a Bengal. (Remember Palmer as a Bengal?) Touchdowns down, interceptions up, fumbles way up … it was alarming stuff all the way across the board for Palmer in 2016.

The Cardinals didn’t draft a quarterback, but they added Blaine Gabbert and undrafted rookie Trevor Knight to a backup corps that already included Drew Stanton and Zac Dysert. The only other teams with five quarterbacks right now are the Vikings (if you count injured Teddy Bridgewater) and the Bills (we’ll get to them in a second).

If Palmer is healthy and throwing it the way he was in 2015, the Cardinals are as confident as anyone. But there isn’t a real solid feel to the quarterback situation in the desert right now.

Therein lies the rub, of course.

In 2015, Palmer was about as good as any quarterback in the league, and because of that the Cardinals made a run to the NFC Championship Game.

But 2016 wasn’t nearly as good, and there is reason to believe his best days are no longer in front of him.

However, an optimist will point to the new practice routine, which the Cardinals plan on implementing this offseason as well as during the regular season, along with a reshuffled offensive line and now-healthy group of receivers as reasons to feel good about Palmer’s prospects.

While quarterbacks earn the majority of attention, credit and blame, their performance is greatly impacted by those around them.

Palmer, though, has done things to try and improve his own performance.

“There’s never one area,” he said of what he worked on.”There’s always mechanics; you can always clean up mechanics. I’ve changed some stuff that’s pretty drastic in the quarterback world, as quarterbacks see it.

“Just foot placement, I’ve changed my feet. So going back through all the drops and the memorizations of drops where it just becomes natural and you’re not thinking about it is something I’ve spent a lot of time on.”

Of the NFC West’s quarterbacks, Seattle’s Russell Wilson is 10th and in the “Confidence is a two-way street” category, while the Los Angeles Rams’ and San Francisco 49ers’ Jared Goff and Brian Hoyer are 29th and 30th, respectively, with both falling in the “No earthly idea” group.

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