How Much Gas Does Carson Palmer Really Have Left in the Tank?
Carson Palmer has enough gas left in the tank to be a credible stop-gap starter for the Arizona Cardinals. The offensive schemes of new head coach Bruce Arians will help, but the Cardinals must also fix the O-line in front of Palmer.
Arians' offense is dictated by the deep passing game. He is fond of flooding the field with vertical routes to stretch coverage schemes.
That's good news for Palmer, who has always excelled as a deep passer. That strength was certainly evident in 2012, as Palmer recorded the third 4,000-yard passing season of his career.
He threw for 4,018 yards and 22 touchdowns as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Those numbers certainly indicate the 33-year-old still has plenty left in the tank.
A brief look at one of Palmer's best games in 2012 shows how Arians' offense will help him stay productive. The play is from Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Raiders are beginning a drive on their goal line and are setting up a deep strike to get out of trouble. Denarius Moore is the intended target and will run a post route.
Palmer shows that he's still able to set himself well for the deep ball. He sets his feet right and steps into the throw.
His arm strength remains high, but just as important, so does his accuracy on the long ball. Palmer drops the pass right over Moore and into his hands. The play went for 49 yards in one strike.
In Arians' offense, Palmer will be able to utilize these skills often. He will have the added benefit of throwing to a wide receiver as talented as Larry Fitzgerald.
He's good enough to make any quarterback seem five years younger. The classy wideout is already excited about receiving passes from Palmer according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King.
Of course Palmer's arm strength and the quality of his targets won't matter a jot if the Cardinals don't fortify their offensive line.
The group surrendered 58 sacks last season. That's bad news for Palmer, especially considering how immobile he is.
He's never likely to be confused with a running quarterback, but Palmer even lacks basic pocket movement. Another play from the Falcons game provides a worrying example.
Palmer is pressured by a basic outside rush from veteran defensive end John Abraham.
Because of Abraham's wide rush, Palmer is presented with a clear lane of escape.
However, his movement is awkward. He clumsily shifts his feet and practically sacks himself by running into his offensive lineman while trying to flee the pocket.
Thankfully the Cardinals are in a position to fix their offensive front. They own the seventh pick in the 2013 NFL draft and the likes of tackles Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson are options they can't ignore.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt and Akbar Gbajabiamila both have the Cardinals selecting Johnson in their mock drafts. It's a smart move to add any player who can help ensure a stable pocket around Palmer.
However, keeping Palmer stationary isn't the only reason Arians must beef up his offensive line. Keeping the 11-year pro on the field is the most important concern.
Palmer has had his share of serious injury concerns during his career. His first major issues came after the 2005 season.
Of course he successfully rebounded, but that wasn't the end of his injury problems. In the 2008 season, he suffered ligament damage in the elbow of his throwing arm.
He may have healed, but these are the kind of injuries that permanently affect a player. The knee trouble reduced what were already dubious mobility skills.
The elbow damage has blighted the touch and precision of Palmer's passes. In the three seasons prior to that injury, Palmer's passer ratings were 101.1, 93.9 and 86.7 respectively. (per Pro-Football-Reference.com)
His never even matched the lowest of those figures since. The highest rating he's managed is last season's 85.3 mark. (per Pro-Football-Reference.com)
The Cardinals are clearly mindful of Palmer's durability concerns. Why else would they be working out quarterbacks prior to the draft?
ESPN's Adam Schefter recently reported the Cardinals planned to work out USC quarterback Matt Barkley. That hints at what the Cardinals are expecting from Palmer.
It's likely he will be used to stabilize a rebuilding team and tutor a young understudy like Barkley. It would be a move similar to the one the old Houston Oilers made when they drafted the late Steve McNair in 1995.
McNair developed for two seasons behind veteran passer Chris Chandler. Installing that same kind of dynamic would be a smart move by the new Cardinals regime.
Arians has worked wonders with young quarterbacks. He quickly molded Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck into productive pro starters.
That makes selecting a quarterback, even one from a suspect class, a risk worth taking in this draft.
Palmer's age makes such a move necessary. He also hasn't started all 16 games in a season since 2010.
However, for the moment he fits very well with what Arians likes to do on offense. Last season offered enough evidence that he can still stretch defenses with the deep ball.
The Cardinals' scheme and weapons like Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts should ensure early success. That will give a rookie sufficient time to develop and learn the nuances of the offense.
Palmer should enjoy two productive seasons under center in Arizona, provided the O-line gets fixed. Then he can clear the way for a youthful successor.
All screenshots courtesy of CBS Sports and NFL.com Gamepass
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