COMMENTARY | If Carson Palmer is successful in 2013 there is a good chance the entire Arizona Cardinals offense will be as well. There are more than three things he must do for this season to be a success, but these three are at the top of the heap; without doing these things, it is a virtual guarantee the offense will have issues.
It may anyway, but let's not split hairs here.
Palmer was above average in passing yards and right on average in touchdowns and interceptions last season when compared to the total passing numbers for every team (via ProFootballReference). Reproducing his 2012 season in 2013 is a good start, but he must be better to help the Cardinals' offense succeed as they are capable.
There is an abundance of talent at most offensive positions this season, and all they need to succeed is for Palmer to do these three things.
1. Limit Late-Game Turnovers
Limiting late-game turnovers starts with Palmer trusting the offense. The group of receivers running routes in Cardinal Red is more talented than those he had to work with in Oakland, so that can't be an excuse.
He must make plays with his arm when the team needs him to, and despite Arizona residing in one of the toughest divisions in all of football, he should find himself in a close game far more often than last season.
In 2012, only the Kansas City Chiefs (230) and Tennessee Titans (223) ran more offensive plays while trailing by three or more possessions than the Oakland Raiders (194). No one threw more passes than Palmer, who completed 74-of-120 (61.7%) for 930 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions for a 98.3 passer rating in that situation (ProFootballReference).
*Four of Palmer's fourth-quarter INTs came with the team trailing by two possessions or less with under 10 minutes remaining in regulation. Also, as poorly as Arizona quarterbacks played in 2012, they threw five fourth-quarter interceptions as well. That is surprising considering just how collectively bad they were.
2. Be Accurate on Deep Passes
No NFL quarterback threw more deep passes (20-plus yards in the air) than Andrew Luck did last season. According to ProFootballFocus, he was the only player to reach triple digits in doing so, cutting it loose 101 times. He ranked ninth with an accuracy percentage of 42.6 percent.
While Palmer did not sling it deep near as often--60 times in 15 games--he was closer to the bottom in accuracy when he did, at just 31.7 percent.
There is a very good chance Palmer will find himself close to 100 deep balls thrown in 2013. Head coach Bruce Arians said his offense calls for no less than six such passes each game. Six deep balls 16 times in a season equals 96 attempts.
Forcing the ball downfield more often will generate more scoring opportunities by itself. But Palmer must be accurate when doing so, as he will face six very good defenses this season--and those are just the division games. Throw in Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Houston, and that's over half the schedule in which Palmer and the Cardinals will face a talented secondary.
The offense is set up to be extremely potent, with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, rookie Ryan Swope and tight end Rob Housler all able to stretch the field. All Palmer has to do is get it to them--they will take care of the rest.
3. Be a Leader
For three years since Kurt Warner retired, one of the major things missing in the Cardinals' offensive huddle has been a quarterback who is unafraid to lead the team; a leader who will grab someone by the facemask and tell them they missed an assignment then praise them for getting it right the next play.
Palmer must be that leader, because a good quarterback who refuses to be a leader in the huddle cannot make it long. Just ask Matt Leinart. There is a chance Leinart could have worked out in Arizona, but without the leadership he was too easy to let go.
The Cardinals need the Carson Palmer of old. They need this Carson Palmer.
Fitzgerald has taken a liking to him, and that's a good start. Being the leader in lieu of the signal-caller the last three seasons had to be taxing on Fitzgerald, so to have a guy like Palmer running the show must be a God-send. He can now focus on being the best Larry Fitzgerald he can be without having the weight of an entire franchise on his back.
He expressed his affinity for Palmer to Y! Sports' own Mike Silver:
"He is a wonderful teammate. He's a hard worker. We will get after it, and I'm excited about it. It's been great getting to know him, and him getting to know us. He has been stabilizing for us thus far, and that feels great. I know [the rest of our] teammates concur."
We fans concur as well, Fitz.
Shaun Church has covered the Arizona Cardinals for more than three years for various online publications and considers himself a life-long fan. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, Football Nation, The Boston Metro, ESPN.com and more.
Questions or comments? E-mail Shaun at email@example.com
You can also follow and mention Shaun on Twitter @Church_NFL.
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