The burden is heavy for 34-year old Carson Palmer as the Cardinals try to navigate the rugged NFC West.
He's been around the league since 2004, but somehow it feels twice as long. The Raiders paid heavily to pry Palmer away from Cincinnati, a well-needed scenery shift, and he rewarded them with good numbers but just eight wins over two seasons.
Last year in Arizona, his interceptions jumped to a career high (22), but the Cardinals kept it together and chipped out a surprising 10-6 record, including a late-season win over eventual champion Seattle.
Head coach Bruce Arians maintains Palmer is his guy for the near term, despite the quarterback's shaky mobility and teetering age (34). "There is no doubt he has plenty of juice left in the tank," Arians told The Arizona Republic. "He’s in great condition. I would think he could play until 36, 37 easily."
But it's a rough neighborhood the Cardinals live in. San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis—all defensive heavies. All big pass-rush clubs.
Meanwhile, Arizona's run game is essentially a commercial break. Arians wants the ball in the air. Attack, attack, attack. Pressure the cornerbacks, overload the safeties.
Last season, Palmer put it up 572 times; this year the total could breach 600. That's a heavy strain for a quarterback who's never shown he can handle the full load by himself.