When the Arizona Cardinals drafted wide receiver John Brown in the third round of this year’s draft, general manager Steve Keim went out of his way to talk up the 179-pound speedster from Pittsburg State.
At the time of Keim's remarks, plenty of people (myself included) were proceeding with caution since he has been known to zealously talk young players up before.
Yet, it appears as if Keim's hype of Brown truly was the real deal. In Brown’s first taste of live-game action against the Houston Texans, the three-time AP Little All-American tallied 87 yards receiving on five receptions.
His 87 yards receiving were a team high. And his five receptions were the second most of any pass-catcher in the game. While it may only be the first preseason game of the year, it’s safe to say the Cardinals’ passing attack appears to be lethal with the addition of Brown.
Yes, a lot can change from now until the beginning of the season, but let’s not forget how well quarterback Carson Palmer played over the course of the final nine games of the season in 2013.
By going back and examining his numbers (16:8 TD-to-INT ratio, 2,533 yards, 66.1 completion percentage) during that stretch, no one should really be surprised by the lethal nature of Arizona’s offense.
In addition to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense, you could say Palmer was one of the keys to the Cardinals’ success in 2013. He posted career highs in completion percentage (63.3) and passing yards (4,274) in head coach Bruce Arians’ scheme.
He also helped the Cardinals offense average 27.3 points per game in Weeks 9-17. This was a huge leap from the 20 points per game they averaged in Weeks 1-8.
Will Palmer and the Cardinals average more than 27.3 points per game in 2014? Probably not, yet there is a lot of truth to the comment the Pro Bowl quarterback made about the state of Arizona’s offense back in May, via Kent Somers of AZCentral.com:
“Where we're at this point is like light-years from last year. They [the wide receivers] are getting on the same page. Every play, they come back and there is good dialogue — ‘Why did you break out? Why did you break in?’”
Based on the Cardinals’ offensive performance against the Texans, they are light years ahead of where they were last year. But the good news is it wasn’t only the first-team offense. It was the second- and third-team offense as well.
For a case in point, take a look at the numbers fellow quarterbacks Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas amassed. Stanton finished with a 112.9 quarterback rating, 152 yards passing and one touchdown.
Thomas, on the other hand, finished with a 133.7 quarterback rating, 113 yards passing and one touchdown. Man, talk about efficiency. The Cardinals were on fire Saturday night.
As you can probably tell already, Arians’ game plan was well suited for every unit he put on the field. Not only did he draw up the perfect plan schematically, he mixed and rotated his players quite nicely as well.
This point brings me back to Brown specifically. It was good to see Arians sprinkle in Brown with Palmer and Stanton. No, Brown won’t see a lot of Stanton (if at all) in the regular season, but the extra reps will undoubtedly help him learn the offense.
It’s one thing to learn the offense by repetition in practice, but it’s another thing to learn it in real time. The latter seems to be the more effective method when you ask young players which they prefer.
Heading into the preseason, I would have said Ted Ginn Jr. was the clear-cut favorite to win the No. 3 wide receiver job. But with three preseason games left to go, it’s evident Brown is going to give him one heck of a battle.
The longer Ginn sits out with an injury, the quicker Brown will shoot up Arizona’s depth chart. Clearly, as I mentioned before, it has only been one game so it’s wise to temper expectations.
Yet, even with tempered expectations, the one preseason game should provide some hope as well. In a jam-packed NFC West, Arizona’s offense looks to be on par with its defense.
That’s a scary thought right there. If Brown can continue to grow and the Cardinals offense can average 25-to-27 points a game this year, Arizona could easily secure its first NFC West title since 2009.
It’s a good time to be a Cardinals fan.
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