Tag Archives: Mike Iupati

Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer is not Tom Brady

carson-palmer-over-concussion-eager-to-get-back-and-play

Ah, 2015.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer dominated opposing defenses last season—and players, coaches and fans clustered around his reflected glow like desert moths. He was the brightest light in a constellation brimming with talent and confidence. The Cardinals regularly occupied opponents’ end zones after precision air and land attacks, and Palmer drove the offense to a 30 points per game average. He finished with 35 touchdowns and a league-best quarterback rating of 104.6.

Enter 2016.

To the surprise of some, it now seems that Palmer is human after all. He has underthrown too many receivers this season, causing some observers to question his arm strength. And he has fumbled three times in his four games. There are murmurs that he has committed the great sin of being 36 years old in a young man’s league, and a glance at his birth certificate confirms it.

But savvy observers know that Palmer hasn’t hit full stride yet, nor enjoyed his full complement of weapons. The offense has missed the presence of Pro-Bowl guard Mike Iupati, who remains out. Speedy wideout John Brown was hurt early in the year and has yet to sync up with Palmer. And receiver Michael Floyd has vanished like Blockbuster Video, or perhaps civility in this political season. Floyd’s disappearance has put more pressure on Larry Fitzgerald to carry the receiving load.

Then there’s the unpleasant business of the Los Angeles Rams summarily slamming Palmer’s head into the turf in week four, putting him into the league’s mysterious concussion protocol and forcing him to sit out the October 6th game against San Francisco. His numbers this season are downright unPalmerian—six TDs against five interceptions—and the Cardinals have crawled out of the blocks with a 2-3 mark. But capable backup Drew Stanton led the Cards to a win against the 49ers, and Palmer is now back on the field.

Despite his slow start, faith in Palmer abounds, from GM Steve Keim to Coach Bruce Arians and all through the locker room. 36 years old? So what? Tom Brady is 38 years old, and he’s still performing at a high level on the field—and likely at home. Face it: Tom Brady married supermodel Gisele Bündchen and you didn’t. What did Brady do after being suspended for air pressure transgressions? Flew to Rome with Gisele and sunbathed nude, to the delight of the Paparazzi. What did Carson Palmer do when he missed time with a mild concussion? He studied the playbook.

Carson Palmer is not Tom Brady. And neither are you.

Still, Palmer has the resume, the tools, and the horses around him to lift the Cardinals out of their sluggish start and into contention.

Arizona hosts the New York Jets this evening under the lights. The Monday Night game has given Palmer an extra day to clear his head, and given the coaches more time to dig into the playbook and try to unearth remnants of last year’s offensive wizardry. Vegas likes the spot, installing the Cards as a touchdown favorite.

Fans have grown restless for the brand of success Arizona enjoyed last year. There is a faint gloom in the collective mood so far this season. The dust devils that swirl up from the desert floor seem more ominous. Cactus flowers seem duller.

Still—for Palmer, the Cardinals and their fans, there is hope. Stubborn, imperishable hope.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Arians, Man of the Moment

To some observers, the Arizona Cardinals have been lurking near the NFL elite like paparazzi hunkered down in Fiat 500s outside Miley Cyrus’ house. The Cardinals went 7-2 to finish off the 2013 season then raced to an 8-1 mark last year before injuries took hold and they coasted to an 11-5 finish and an early playoff exit. Arizona dismantled division rival San Francisco last week 47-7 and now enjoys a two-game early season lead in the division. The long-suffering Cardinals are now fashionable in NFL pundit circles.

But don’t look for coach Bruce Arians and his rakish beret on the runways of Milan anytime soon. Part cerebral tactician, part square-jawed hell-for-leather pugilist, Arians simply isn’t dazzled by transient success. After Arizona built a 31-7 halftime lead against the 49ers last week, his locker room message was simple: “If you relax, I’ll be looking for new players. Keep your foot on their throat.” Arians wants more, wants it all, which is the mark of the great coaches. His fiery optimism has swept through the team.

Next up? Division foe St. Louis, led by quarterback Nick Foles. The sandy-haired Foles was once in vogue in Philadelphia, but he was sent packing after inconsistent results and he turned up at St. Louis’ doorstep, helmet in hand. He led the Rams to a big win over Seattle in week one but the team has since sputtered in losses to Washington and Pittsburgh. St. Louis sits dead last in total offensive yards but is buoyed by a top 10 defense.

The Rams would be best served ignoring some of the statistics:

Arizona has won 14 of the last 16 games QB Carson Palmer has started and has outscored its opponents by 160 points in that span. The Cardinals are 15-3 at University of Phoenix stadium since 2013. Larry Fitzgerald has scored five touchdowns this season; the St. Louis Rams have scored four. The Cardinals’ secondary–dubbed the “No Fly Zone“–returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter against San Francisco last week.

Daunting stuff.

This week marks a return to health of prized free agent and former Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati. RB Andre Ellington is still listed as inactive, and his replacement Chris Johnson will get the bulk of the carries, coming off two scores and 110 yards last week. Arizona’s running game has been an admirable complement to Palmer’s aerial assault, which is striking targets all over the field.

Arizona is running on all cylinders and coach Arians is unlikely to take his foot off the pedal Sunday. In fewer than three years, infused with success at prior NFL stops in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, Arians has fostered a cultural shift from a franchise playing not to lose to one confident of victory.

Arians has arrived. He is a man of his time, and indeed, the man of the moment.

Eric Forgaard

This blog is not sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.