Cardinals believe pieces are in place to revive once potent passing game

Sep 7, 2017, 6:13 AM | Updated: 9:07 pm
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) points to a defender before the snap of the footbal...
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) points to a defender before the snap of the football during NFL football training camp Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Carson Palmer’s 2017 expectations are no different than his expectations for every previous season in Arizona.

“Like every team, we all think we’re going to win the Super Bowl right now,” he said Wednesday.

All but one of the teams holding that belief will be wrong, but in the unbridled optimism of early September, there are reasons to believe the Cardinals’ once potent offense can regain its swagger this season, which would go a long way toward reviving the once lofty expectations surrounding this team.

There are many factors fueling that belief.

Palmer said he feels fresh after a smart offseason management program that limited his throws.

Deep threat John Brown is mostly healthy and ready to add a critical dimension to the Cardinals’ passing game.

Dual threat running back David Johnson will be another year better, tight end Troy Niklas may finally realize the immense potential the Cardinals saw when they picked him in the second round (52nd overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, and on Wednesday, coach Bruce Arians put the final piece of the puzzle in place by noting the progress of the five guys along the offensive line.

“With or without John Brown’s health, I feel extremely confident — especially with where Carson is (but) more because I feel good about our protection and the rest of the guys,” he said. “I just watched these guys practice for 35 days. They all look like they are better.”

In 2014 and 2015, Palmer threw a combined 46 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, pushing both Larry Fitzgerald and Brown over 1,000 yards receiving in 2015.

Last season, with the protection an issue, Palmer had just 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and he was sacked 32 times in the first 10 games before Arians adjusted his offense.

“It’s not just the offensive line. It’s the running backs. It’s all 11 of them seeing their hots and sights,” Arians said. “We missed too many of those last year when we took hits, or missed a sight adjustment.

“Just changing different route combinations, we still took our shots down the field. It was just how we took them. Different protections, less play-action with [Palmer’s] back turned and more with him facing his targets.”

Arians noted that Palmer has to protect himself just as much as the guys in front of him do, and Palmer acknowledged this.

“Getting the ball out quicker always helps,” he said. “Throwing the ball away always helps. There’s handful of things you can do to improve those things.”

There are still question marks along the line. Tackles Jared Veldheer and D.J. Humphries switched sides, and Palmer noted “that changes things up pretty drastically for those two guys.”

A.Q. Shipley is still small for a center, and Evan Boehm is an unknown at right guard and could still give way to veteran Alex Boone, whom the Cardinals just signed. But if Arians is right and the protection holds up this season, he can go back to doing more of what made the Cardinals successful in 2014 and 2015 when they made the playoffs.

“I believe we can put up a lot of numbers,” Brown said. “We have the weapons, and I think we have more weapons than we did in 2015.”

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Cardinals believe pieces are in place to revive once potent passing game