This isn’t anything new for the Arizona Cardinals. Their fans and organization as a whole know exactly what these struggles are like. You can live and die by the quarterback position, especially if you aren’t fully and completely prepared for what life without strong play from the position will look like. The 2016 season for the Cardinals is the definition of that, even if everyone was hoping that wouldn’t be the case. The Cardinals are 1-2, and we’ve seen in the two losses that unless QB Carson Palmer is at his best, the team could be in trouble.
Sure, the Cardinals have second-year running back David Johnson, who may be one of the best dual-threat backs in the league, but it hasn’t mattered. Look at Palmer’s statistics over three games:
- Week 1 loss vs. Patriots: 24-of-37, 271 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions (104.7 QB rating)
- Week 2 win vs. Buccaneers: 17-of-30, 304 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions (124.9 QB rating)
- Week 3 loss at Bills: 26-of-50, 287 yards, 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions (36.0 QB rating)
While the Cardinals were obviously in a brutal spot with the performance that Palmer put up in Week 3, what’s even more concerning than that is the fact they lost in Week 1 with Palmer’s play. Basically, the 36-year-old veteran quarterback has to either be at his very best, or the Cardinals seem like they can lose pretty much any game at this point.
Palmer was strong in the Week 1 loss to the Patriots, but it didn’t matter. It also hasn’t mattered what Johnson has done in the running game, as he averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 4.4 yards per carry in the two losses while scoring three combined touchdowns in those two games. Simply put, the play of this entire offense will fall on the shoulders of Palmer, because if he can’t be elite, the Cardinals won’t be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Every NFL fan remembers the three-year stretch for the Cardinals after Kurt Warner from 2010-to-2012. Over that span, the team went 18-30, with a wide range of quarterbacks such as Derek Anderson and Kevin Kolb leading the way. While these are two completely different Cardinals teams, the point is, Arizona fans are used to living and dying by the key position at this point.
The Cardinals lost just three games in 2015 during the regular season, and in those three games Palmer threw three touchdowns against four interceptions. In the other 13 games, he totaled 32 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. The hope coming into this season had been that Johnson, as well as Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, could help ease that pressure off the passing game a bit, but it doesn’t seem to have worked, not yet at least.
There is some good news for Palmer, though, as he and the Cardinals draw a team in the Los Angeles Rams who just gave up 400-plus passing yards to Jameis Winston, and then head to take on the San Francisco 49ers after that. If Palmer and the passing game can get back to work the way that they were rolling throughout the 2015 season through those two games, it’ll hopefully leave this year’s Cardinals looking a whole lot like the group from last year.