2017 Grade: .413

2017 3rd Down: .319

Week 1 at Detroit: I broke out every negative short-hand in my arsenal for Palmer’s game notes – it was not a good day. There were a number of miscommunications, which is odd for an offense that has essentially been intact for three years. Short-hopping throws to the boundary, missing wide over the middle, failing to anticipate, Palmer had a game he’d like to forget.

Week 2 at Indianapolis: I’m another week closer to believing that Carson Palmer’s career is coming to an end. He made a couple of big time throws, including a dime of a long touchdown pass to Jaron Brown, but the misfires are happening far too frequently. He has more trouble than ever escaping pressure and his passes are consistently wide, high or behind. On third down, Palmer registered 0 points on 14 drop backs.

Week 3 vs. Dallas: Carson Palmer is in a difficult spot. He’s in a vertical based offense without the requisite pass protection to execute those big plays. He remains a cerebral quarterback with a big arm, but it’s fair to question if he has enough trust in his line to make the big play. The GIF below best signifies the difference in the Cardinals offense from 2015 to now. Arians has the perfect call for man-free, they get the safety where they want him, and Palmer ignores the deep shot. Third and five or not, the Cardinals capitalized on this kind of coverage often in 2015 – not so much anymore.

Week 4 vs. San Francisco: If Carson Palmer wants to be an effective quarterback again, he’s going to have to do it outside of Arizona. The pass protection there, paired with his style of play, is an unmitigated disaster. With a constantly collapsing pocket (interior and on the edge) it’s a marvel that Palmer is able to have any modicum of success. On the rare occasion that he’s able to break the pocket, he tends to press, and that’s when his mistakes occur.

Week 5 at Philadelphia: To say Carson Palmer has played well this year would be a lie, but he has the dealt with the worst circumstances of any quarterback. The Cardinals pass protection is laughable, the running game is non-existent and only one receiver separates consistently. Palmer was under siege, yet again, all game and it caused him into some two unforced errors. 18 of Palmer’s drop backs were not counted due to third and long screens, throw aways and garbage time.

Week 6 vs. Tampa Bay: With 19 positive plays and just one negative, Carson Palmer was near perfect. When he’s clean in the pocket, with a solid running game, that’s the kind of quarterback he is. He anticipates well, throwing balls right before the receiver’s break. He’s accurate, poise, and can push the ball down the field. He’s fun to watch when this offense is functioning properly.

2016: The Prototype Under Siege

Few quarterbacks, if any, saw their production affected more negatively by the surrounding cast than Carson Palmer. At his best, Palmer is a big-arm, cerebral quarterback that recognizes coverages in a flash and is among the best in the business at throwing with anticipation.

If one rusher comes free, Palmer is able to drift away from contact and put the ball on-target with velocity. The issue in Arizona in 2016 wasn’t one-man pass-rushes ruining plays – but complete breakdowns along the offensive line. Palmer was constantly under-siege and often had no opportunity to avoid a sack.

Palmer may has well have been made in a quarterback-lab. He’s the ideal size with a highly coveted understanding of pre and post-snap reads capable of squeezing tight windows, pushing the ball vertically, and spinning it to the deep boundaries of the field. He allows the Cardinals playbook to expand more than most teams in the league.

That was until the protection became about as useful as a Chihuahua guard-dog.

Palmer’s forte is not eluding sacks. He offers little athleticism and doesn’t sidestep tacklers or flee in either direction with any sort of urgency. Just as he did in the 2015 playoffs, Palmer tends to press when things aren’t going his way and a bad day can quickly turn into a four-turnover game.

Palmer’s timing is impeccable. The Cardinals love using three-by-one sets isolating a receiver on the backside of the formation and Palmer drives deep-outs and comebacks to the weak-side with no issues. This mitigated some of the protection problems, but he could only do so much.

The former USC Trojan can pinpoint balls around defenders and complete passes into tight coverage up the seam and down the field.

Arizona could stand to clean-up some really basic fundamentals. There were too many miscommunications and failed center-quarterback exchanges in 2016 – a few of which were Palmer’s fault.

Palmer rarely misses open throws and it is even rarer for him to miss an opportunity at an open receiver. Most of his misses are because of lack of separation or the defender making a good play on the football.

Palmer’s PhD in this offense, Larry Fitzgerald, and the best running back in football, David Johnson, kept the boat afloat as long as they could in 2016 – but the offensive line eventually took on too much water. The offense is predicated on deep-drops and timing-based patterns that simply won’t work with immediate pressure.

With better health and some reinforcements, I see no reason Palmer can’t return to his 2015 form when he was instrumental in a 14-win season that ended one-game shy of the Super Bowl.

Stat Sheet

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