Palmer comfortable in role as Cardinals begin OTAs
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — A year ago, Carson Palmer’s brain was crammed with a dizzying array of details of the offense of his new team.
Needless to say, adjusting to the Arizona Cardinals’ scheme took some time.
When the 34-year-old quarterback finished his first OTA (organized team activity) session of his second season on Tuesday, he said there is “zero comparison” between the way he feels now and the way he did a year ago.
Then, he faced learning new concepts, new plays, new terminology and a new philosophy from first-year coach Bruce Arians.
Now, he said, that frustration has been replaced by comfort and confidence.
“Myself and other guys were out here just swimming,” Palmer said of a year ago. “Inside your head you’re thinking about 80 different things. Today, I was thinking about one thing — first progression, second progression, third progression.”
As Arians put it, “Last year he was learning, now he’s coaching.”
Palmer said he spent the offseason studying the offense, and studying how his teammates operate in that offense. He said he watched video of every snap several times, seeing what went wrong and what worked well.
Palmer comes to the OTAs prepared and optimistic.
“We’ve got a ton of work to do, a long way to go,” he said, “but it feels so good to be confident and be comfortable and know the guys around you know what they’re doing. There’s not a shadow of a doubt on certain plays like there was in the past.”
In his first season with Arizona last year after being acquired from Oakland, Palmer threw for a career high 4,274 yards — his fourth 4,000-yard season in his 11 years in the NFL. He completed 63 percent of his passes and threw 24 for touchdowns but was intercepted a career-worst 22 times.
Palmer and the rest of the Arizona offense were noticeably better as the season progressed.
Through the first eight games, when the Cardinals were 4-4, he completed 174 of 284 passes (61.3 percent) for 10 touchdowns with 14 interceptions.
In the last eight games, when Arizona went 6-2, he completed 188 of 288 (65 percent) for 2,361 yards and 14 TDs, with eight interceptions.
The team finished 10-6 but just missed the playoffs, and Arians pointed to those final eight games as momentum.
“The way we played the last eight games, I thought we were a playoff team,” the coach said. “But the numbers didn’t add up and that was fine because we didn’t play well enough the first eight games.
If we could take the second half of the season and continue to build off of it, there’s a lot of confidence in our locker room, there’s a lot of camaraderie, and that’s what it takes to win.”
Palmer welcomed his left tackle in Oakland, Jared Veldheer, with open arms after Arizona signed the free agent, filling a much-needed hole to protect the not-exactly-mobile quarterback.
“I have a certain level of comfort with him just because I have experience with him in the heat of it,” Palmer said. ” I know what he’s capable of blocking. I just have a ton of trust backside.”
Palmer singled out receiver Michael Floyd for his offseason improvement.
“I spent a lot of time with him this summer and I saw him working on his hips. I’ve seen him kind of transform his body,” Palmer said. “He’s running effortlessly, he’s catching the ball effortlessly. ”
The quarterback also mentioned John Carlson, a free agent signee who is part of a crowded competition at right end.
Carlson, Palmer said, ”’has been phenomenal. He’s picked up the offense very quick, he’s extremely athletic. He made one catch that you don’t see many guys make on an over route.”
Arians loves speed, and he didn’t have a lot a year ago, so the Cardinals signed Ted Ginn Jr. and drafted speedy John Brown.
“It changes the offense,” Palmer said. “When you add that type of explosion and that type of dynamic player that those guys are, it’s something we didn’t have last year. It’s something that really opens up this offense and really forces defenses to cover every part of the field.”
The OTAs run through Thursday, with the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp starting on Friday.
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