Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: For the Cardinals to succeed this season, they’ll need to keep QB Carson Palmer upright and healthy. Indeed, that’s been the charge of the offensive line for the last few years. Some player pedigrees are good, especially that of four-time Pro-Bowler Mike Iupati, but injuries have led to position-shifting and uncertainty up and down the line. 37-year-old Palmer was sacked 40 times last year, and coach Bruce Arians winced every time.
Palmer’s a throwback to the pure pocket-passer tradition your father enjoyed. You know—Unitas, Lamonica, Starr. His style is losing favor in today’s NFL, where nimble-legged QB’s can spoil the third-down blitz to move the chains or buy more time for receivers to come open. One of those targets will be the venerable Larry Fitzgerald, who like Palmer, has hinted this may be his last season.
Fitz has a shot at joining an exclusive club in Detroit today against the Lions—with 82 receiving yards, he’ll become the fifth player with 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over a career in season openers. Other members of the club? Don Maynard (ask your father), Andre Reed, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice—three Hall of Famers, and Moss is knocking on the door.
The Cardinals’ faithful pray for Palmer’s health, and surely also for the health and fortune of the NFL’s quiet superstar: David Johnson. The average man on the street has never heard of Johnson; unless that man is on Camelback Road in Phoenix, in which case he may be wearing Johnson’s jersey and have his poster on the wall at home.
Johnson became the first player in league history to gain at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first 15 games. He rushed for 1,239 yards and added 879 receiving yards, falling 121 yards short of becoming only the third player in league history to gain 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving. “I feel like I definitely had the chance. I should have had it. I messed up a couple plays,” Johnson said.
Johnson may have been more than a couple plays away, but he’s unsatisfied and hungry. He wants more.
Same goes for Arians, Palmer, Fitzgerald, GM Steve Keim and that guy walking down Camelback Road. Last year’s 7-8-1 record left an ugly smudge on the end of a gleaming four-season run.
Can the Cardinals shake off a disappointing 2016 season and become a force again, starting in Detroit today? Bruce Arians was impressed with the summer and preseason work. He perhaps too-optimistically said, “Let’s get ready to put a ring on our finger.”
Echoes of Beyoncé there, and she’s done alright for herself.
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