COMMENTARY | Part one of a seven-part series predicting 2013 statistics for key Arizona Cardinals players begins with quarterback Carson Palmer. Despite being in a new offense with new coaches, Palmer has a chance this season to do what few Cardinals quarterbacks have done in a season.
But we will get to that in a minute.
First, let's look at how he did the last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and their receiving corps. Oakland's receivers frequently failed to run correct routes, were seen slipping as they got out of their breaks, and dropped passes at a far too frequent rate (7.5% drop rate was 10th-highest in 2012).
After being traded by the Cincinnati Bengals midway through the 2011 season, Palmer was forced into the fray the week he was acquired and played in relief of Kyle Boller against the division-rival Kansas City Chiefs. Boller had completed 7-of-14 passes for 61 yards and three interceptions.
Palmer did no better, completing 8-of-21 passes for 116 yards and three interceptions of his own.
But he started every game the rest of the year, completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 2,637 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in nine starts. He accumulated an 86.2 passer rating.
Then, in 2012, he started all but the final game of the season for the Raiders. It was a very poor season overall for the team, but Palmer put up solid numbers regardless.
He completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 4,018 yards, 22 TD and 14 INT. His 85.3 passer rating was his fourth-highest single-season rating in nine NFL seasons.
Palmer did this with a receiving corps so dysfunctional that Oakland ended up releasing its top receiver--Darrius Heyward-Bey--following the season.
The 33-year-old quarterback also turned a no-named tight end into the team's leading receiver. Brandon Myers, now a free-agent signee with the New York Giants, led the team with 79 receptions and 806 yards. His four receiving touchdowns ranked third on the team.
Minus the first and last games of his Raiders career due to minimal playing time, Palmer completed 61.3 percent of his passes for an average of 288 yards per game. He threw 35 touchdown passes and 27 interceptions and had a passer rating of 85.4--all with one of the worst bunch of receivers in the NFL.
What can he do with the group of receivers to which he now has the pleasure of throwing?
By comparison, Larry Fitzgerald and Co. makes Oakland's 2012 crew seem more like a community college receiving corps. From top to bottom, Arizona's receivers are more talented, more disciplined and drop fewer passes per attempt than Oakland's do.
The current group had a 6.0 percent drop rate in 2012--that is, they dropped six percent of passes intended for them. That would put them at the 13th-lowest total if not for receiver Early Doucet, who raised the drop rate to 7.2 percent by himself (Arizona ranked three spots ahead of Oakland in wide receiver drop rate in 2012).
He was released earlier this offseason, likely for that very reason.
In an interview done by local news channel ABC-15, Palmer reiterated the type of quarterback he is and the type of offense Arians employs.
"You go for touchdowns and not field goals. And you try to attack defenses and throw the ball down the field," Palmer said. "I think that's one thing that coach Arians has had a ton of success doing--being on the offensive and always being an up-tempo, attack-style offense."
Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, and the combination of second-year receiver LaRon Byrd and rookie Ryan Swope make for a very talented collection of receivers. Add in tight end Rob Housler, and Palmer has at his disposal the best receivers with which he has ever worked.
Palmer Season Stats Prediction
Only two quarterbacks in Cardinals history have ever thrown for at least 4,000 yards in a single season. Neil Lomax first did it in 1984, throwing for a team record 4,614 yards. The only other man to top that feat was Kurt Warner in 2008, when he threw for 4,583 yards and led the team to its one and only Super Bowl appearance.
Palmer can and will become the third quarterback in franchise history to top the 4,000-yard mark in a season and set a career high in the process. His current high came in 2007 with the Bengals. That season, he tossed 26 TD passes and a league-high 20 INT, but his 4,131 yards passing that year is still a team record (Palmer is the only QB in Bengals history to surpass 4,000 yards, doing it in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007).
He is also one of two quarterbacks in Raiders history to do it--the other being Rich Gannon in 2002 (team record 4,689 yards).
Palmer will complete 335-of-550 (60.9%), throw for 4,263 yards (7.75 yards per attempt), 28 TD and 15 INT; that all adds up to a 90.7 passer rating.
Should he hold to this prediction and top 4,000 yards, he would become the first quarterback in NFL history to do so with three different teams. As of now, he is in a group of six players to do it with two teams, the others being Warner, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Warren Moon and Drew Bledsoe.
That is solid company to keep.
Shaun Church is a student of football statistics who looks for obscure numbers and provides in-depth analysis when something noteworthy is found. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, Football Nation, The Boston Metro, ESPN.com and more.
You can follow Shaun on Twitter @Church_NFL
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