NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

Stepfan Taylor gives the Cardinals boost in red zone

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
10:00
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video

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss says running back Stepfan Taylor has provided the team with a threat in the red zone.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- This was the week Larry Foote was supposed to start sitting back and kicking his feet up.

By time the Arizona Cardinals reached their seventh game this season, he was supposed to be more of an assistant coach than an every-down linebacker. But Foote, 34, has been around long enough to know most things in the NFL don’t go as planned.

Foote was signed on May 7 to be the short-term replacement for linebacker Daryl Washington, who the Cardinals were anticipating would face a four-to-six game suspension for pleading guilty in March to assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

Foote
“I was going to be in there and hopefully keep us .500 until he gets back,” Foote said.

About three weeks after Foote signed, Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season.

“He ends up gone for the year, and I’m in there every snap,” Foote said. “But, competitively, I love being out there.

“But, six games I was looking at the money, I said, ‘OK that makes sense.’”

The numbers don't quite work for 16 games. Foote signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals worth $1.020 million, which included a $65,000 signing bonus. His final year in Pittsburgh in 2013 netted $2.5 million.

With Arizona sitting at 5-1 heading into Week 8, Foote’s deal looks like a steal.

The 13-year veteran has played every snap for Arizona this season after missing the final 15 games of 2013 with a biceps injury. He’s tied for second on the team with 35 tackles and has one interception and one sack, which he recorded Sunday in Oakland.

"Larry's kind of the glue over there rihgt now," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "He calls the defense, he sets the defense, he's the cheerleader -- he's everything I knew he would be. He's been that way for a long time. But, he brings a lot of passion to the practice field, too, and the locker room.

"Yeah, he's everything we needed."

Not going through a full season this late in his career has helped Foote.

“After the season I didn’t have to ice no injuries,” he said. “I just started working out and [my] body feels good.”

While he was supposed to already be thinking about postseason vacation destinations, the only place Foote has been visiting this year is the training room.

He doesn’t know if he’ll sign another contract to return in 2015 or hang up his cleats for a life of retirement. That decision could’ve been made starting this week, but he’ll have to put it off until December -- or maybe February, if he’s lucky.

“At this point, I’m week to week,” Foote said. “I’ve never been in the training room as much [in] my whole career. I told them guys, ‘This is the last week,’ and last week was supposed to be the last week. They got on me [Monday] morning and I said, ‘Football week don’t start until Wednesday.’

“But I’m having fun. When you winning, I mean, this is what football is about. Winning, having a run, those memories, that’s worth more than money or anything. A lot of guys haven’t been fortunate enough to have those runs.”

The Film Don't Lie: Cardinals

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Cardinals must fix:

Sitting very close to the bottom of the league in total sacks with seven -- 12 fewer than at this point last season -- the Arizona Cardinals are still struggling to find a solution to their foundering pass rush. The lack of a presence inside the pocket continued Sunday with just one sack against the Raiders. If nothing changes against Philadelphia this weekend, Arizona may be in for its second loss of the season.

Against the Raiders, the Cardinals didn’t seem to have much of an issue getting off the line of scrimmage and putting some heat on rookie quarterback Derek Carr. It was more that the rush fizzled. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals finished their 24-13 win with 13 hurries but no quarterback hits besides the sack by Larry Foote.

Arizona sent five or more pass-rushers on seven dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

And when the Cardinals did, they either missed Carr or he stepped up in the pocket to avoid any pressure and contact.

A review of the game film showed Carr having room to easily step up. When Arizona sent seven pass-rushers on a third-and-7 in the second quarter, the middle was open for Carr to just move up in the pocket and hit Mychal Rivera for an 18-yard pass.

As they've been all season, the Cardinals seemed to be a half step slow on the pass rush. There were times when Tommy Kelly got through, but Carr released the ball just before he was hit.

Arizona will be able to fix its pass rush by clogging the middle gaps and not allowing quarterbacks to step up and forcing them outside. The also need to be quicker with their hands when offensive linemen are moving them away from the pocket or developing better moves to elude tackles off the edge such as what Sam Acho did when he knocked down a Carr pass in the first quarter when Arizona rushed six.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Darnell Dockett's mocking of Oakland's winless 0-6 record late in Sunday's game went viral quickly after the Cardinals won, 24-13.

But Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arian wasn't a fan of Dockett's antics.

"It won't happen again," Arians said Monday afternoon.

Dockett told ESPN.com he hasn't been fined by the team for the whiteboard message.

Here's a photo of the sign taken by a Cardinals fan in Oakland:



Recapping the rest of Arians' Monday news conference:
  • Arians said there's no structural damage to Andre Ellington's ribs. The running back is "just sore."
  • There's a possibility defensive end Calais Campbell could return to practice this week. He's been out with a strained MCL since suffering the injury against Denver in Week 5.
  • Arians said safety Rashad Johnson is being evaluated for a patellar tendon but it could be severe tendinitis.
  • Rookie tight end Troy Niklas is doubtful for the Eagles game, Arians said.
  • Second-year running back Stepfan Taylor lost weight to get quicker but lost some power at the same time, Arians said.
  • Arians explained how the Cardinals could be 31st about the pass but No. 1 against the run: "They can't run. They're going to throw." When he was asked if Arizona could win with the second-worst pass defense, Arians said "We have so far."
  • Arians said he won't push Ellington to practice on Wednesdays even though it's hindering the timing in Arizona's pass game: "He can't if he can't hardly walk."
  • Arians on the fake punts the St. Louis Rams pulled off against Seattle: "That was some big cojones as Good (offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin) would say."
OAKLAND, Calif. -- When Arizona Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer woke up Sunday morning, he knew his return to the O.co Coliseum wouldn’t be just another game.

“It was kind of nostalgic -- more than I thought would even hit me being back,” the former Raiders third-round draft pick said. “Coming out pregame and running around back on the field, being back in the Coliseum and all the familiar things coming back from the last four years, it’s a lot of emotion.

“I knew it was going to be a special game.”

Leaving Oakland with a 24-13 win made it even more special.

Veldheer was one of three former Raiders on the field for Arizona. A lot was made last week about quarterback Carson Palmer’s return, but defensive tackle Tommy Kelly played the first nine years of his career with the Raiders.

He said he wanted to get a win for Palmer, who played half of 2011 and all of 2012 with Oakland before a trade landed him in Arizona, but Kelly wanted the win for himself.

“As a football player, I learned a lot,” he said. “I have a lot of love for this city and I wish the team nothing but the best. But on the football field, it’s not anything personal. It’s business. We just wanted to go out there, execute and win.”

While Kelly didn’t talk to any of his former Raiders teammates on the field -- “They kind of leave me alone. They know how I am,” he said -- he discussed playing a former team with his new head coach, Bruce Arians.

“You can see the smiles on their faces all week and [the] energy they brought to practice and meetings,” Arians said. “It was special for them, especially Tommy Kelly.”

Palmer and Kelly left the Raiders in 2013, and Veldheer in 2014. Veldheer, who was drafted by Oakland in 2010, returned with a chip on his shoulder because of how his departure went down.

“It was a big win for both of us,” Veldheer said.

“It meant a ton,” he added.

Palmer, who completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and his first interception of the season, downplayed having a chip on his shoulder. He did, however, make sure to get a box of favorite sandwiches delivered to the locker room after the game. He also talked about seeing his former Oakland teammates still on the roster.

“It was a great environment to play in,” Palmer said. “This place is awesome. It was great to play [here] when you’re wearing silver and black and it’s a fun place to play as an opponent. Great to get a win.”
videoOAKLAND, Calif. -- The way this season has gone for the Arizona Cardinals, coach Bruce Arians didn’t think Andre Ellington was coming back out of that locker room.

Ellington went in early, with a few seconds left in the second quarter to get his bruised ribs examined. It was going to be, in Arians' mind, another injury to add to the Cardinals’ weekly list report that seemingly grows by the day.

Ellington didn’t quell Arians’ concerns when the Cardinals returned to the field for the second half kickoff without him. By then, Arians was rewriting the game plan for Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes to carry Ellington’s load in the second half. But several minutes into the third quarter, Ellington jogged back on to the field, around the Raiderettes, around the end zone, and stood next to Arians.

“Then he tapped me on the back and said he was ready to go,” Arians said. “I said, ‘Oh good. I’m glad you made it.’”

Glad may be the understatement of the month.

Ellington was Arizona’s workhorse in Sunday’s 24-13 victory against winless Oakland, extending the Cardinals’ lead in the NFC West another week. Ellington finished with a career-high 30 touches for 160 total yards, which included a career-high 24 rushes for 88 yards while tying a career-high six receptions for 72 yards.

But more importantly, he led the revival of a running game that’s been weeks in the making.

“We want to come out every week and establish a run game,” Ellington said. “Coach challenged us this week, said we have to run the football better. Last week we didn’t run it well.”

After Ellington returned, Arians gave his featured back one play that first drive of the second half -- a pass from Carson Palmer, which Ellington dropped. But when Arizona took over following a field goal by Oakland to make the game 14-13 midway through the third quarter, Arians gave the ball back to Ellington.

And didn’t stop.

Ellington was responsible for 76 of the 80 yards on Arizona’s next drive -- 40 on the ground, 16 in the air and 20 through a defensive pass interference he drew. After doing all that work, he subbed himself out after getting winded and let Taylor get the glory. Taylor, who had 40 yards on 12 carries -- twice as many as his season total before Oakland -- scored on a four-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game.

“He earned it during the week,” Ellington said. “When I’m sitting resting, he’s out there working. My idea was just to get some fresh legs out there and we got the touchdown.”

Since he injured his left foot the week before the opener, Ellington hasn’t been practicing Wednesdays. It’s caused him to struggle with his wind early in games but he eventually catches his breath. The gauntlet of plays that Arians put Ellington through Sunday had been set since OTAs but Ellington hasn’t had many opportunities to practice them.

Arizona hadn’t cracked 100 yards rushing since Week 2 in New York, but if there was a game to do it, it was against the Raiders' 31st-ranked rushing defense. The Cardinals knew they had specific areas to focus on, and Sunday was an example of what happens when their minor corrections aremade.

“It’s something that we always knew we had,” said fullback Robert Hughes. “We were there the few past games but it’s always one block here, one block there. Today, we seemed to be able to get in more of a rhythm in the run game, but we got to definitely continue to work on it some more cause there’s big plays there we need to get out and get those toes big plays.”
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals' 24-13 victory against the Oakland Raiders:

Veldheer reminisces: Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer said returning to Oakland on Sunday was “kind of nostalgic” for him. He was drafted by the Raiders in 2010 and returning for the first time after spending four years in Oakland was harder on him than he expected it to be.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
No scoreboard watching for Fitz: After the Cardinals' game, when wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was told that Seattle had lost to St. Louis during the early games Sunday, he was legitimately surprised. He didn’t know the score of the game before Arizona took the field in Oakland.

Sack dance honors Bay Area: After Larry Foote’s sack in the second quarter, the veteran linebacker broke out into a sack dance that he named the “Tupac Dance.”
OAKLAND, Calif. -- If there’s one thing Darnell Dockett knows how to do well -- even when injured -- it’s trash talk.

It doesn’t matter if it’s on Twitter or in the Black Hole in Oakland, Dockett comes with his best stuff. Late in the Arizona Cardinals' 24-13 victory against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Dockett responded to taunting from Raiders fans with a message on a whiteboard that had to sting: “Worst team in the NFL” it read, with a big “0-6” under it.

The kicker was that Dockett wrote a smiley face in the zero.

Dockett told ESPN.com the Raiders fans behind Arizona’s bench were throwing coins and ice and talking their own smack during the game, specifically referencing mothers. It lasted all game, in addition to trash talking leading up to the game.

After he held up the sign, which was captured by fans with Dockett smiling and has since gone viral on Twitter, Dockett said more stuff was thrown.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
7:26
PM ET

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 24-13 win at O.co Coliseum.

What it means: No matter how much the Cardinals tried to deny it or downplay it, Sunday in Oakland was a trap game. The winless Raiders were feeling positive under a new coach with a new philosophy. It was the perfect recipe to upset the Cardinals, the first-place team in the NFC West. Even as the Raiders cut their deficit to just one point, Arizona showed enough resiliency to hold off Oakland and improve to 5-1. But it’s how the Cardinals were able to do it despite an offense that did not put together a complete game and threw its first interception of the season. The Cardinals converted their third downs -- 9-for-15 on Sunday -- while holding the Raiders to 56 rushing yards. They showed they had what it takes to win in a game that lacked emotion.

Stock watch: Ted Ginn was signed to relieve Patrick Peterson of his return duties while adding a dynamic punt and kick returner. With the exception of one return for a touchdown against the New York Giants, Ginn hasn’t lived up to the hype or expectations, and that continued Sunday. He fielded six punts and returned just two of them -- opting for fair catches or field catches. In his defense, most were not returnable. But the one punt he had room to return came at the end of the third quarter, and he opted for the fair catch instead of trying to gain a few extra yards. When he did return punts, they went for 7 yards.

Less penalized, but needs work: Arizona followed up its 14-penalty performance against Washington with six against Oakland -- a lower number, but more than any team wants. It’s Arizona’s third-most this season.

Game ball: Andre Ellington single-handedly extended Arizona’s lead in the third quarter. He finished with 88 yards and 24 carries, and 72 receiving yards on six receptions.

What’s next: The Cardinals host the Philadelphia Eagles at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
TEMPE, Ariz. – The Arizona Cardinals will be without defensive end Calais Campbell and Troy Niklas for a second straight game Sunday in Oakland.

Campbell continues to recover from a strained MCL he suffered in Week 5 against Denver. Niklas is out with a sprained ankle sustained in the same game.

Alford
Campbell
Arizona is expected to have everyone else healthy and available against the Raiders.

Tight end John Carlson (knee) is almost back to 100 percent after hurting a knee on the first play Sunday against Washington. He practiced better Friday after returning to the field Thursday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

“He’s real close,” Arians said. “I really didn’t notice anything today. He was a little bit tentative yesterday, but today he really let it go.”

Linebacker Glenn Carson (ankle), defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (calf) and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu (illness) – who returned to practice Friday – were all listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report.

Quarterback Carson Palmer (shoulder) and cornerback Patrick Peterson (ankle) were both upgraded to full Friday and are probable.

The bruised nerve in Palmer’s right shoulder has improved daily, Arians said.

“It’s still not 100 percent, but it’s getting better,” he said.

Probable for Sunday: WR John Brown (hamstring), RB Andre Ellington (foot), WR Michael Floyd (groin) and LB Alex Okafor (quad).

Last week, the Oakland Raiders showed some rare life against the San Diego Chargers, and the Arizona Cardinals continued to be the surprise leader of the NFC West.

Sunday, the 0-5 Raiders will try to do what they couldn’t last week against San Diego -- pull off a home upset against a top team -- while 4-1 Arizona and former Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer will try to stay in first place.

Oakland Raiders reporter Bill Williamson and Arizona Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss discuss the matchup:

Williamson: Josh, are the Cardinals for real?

Weinfuss: It’s only been six games, but I think it’s too early to tell and that’s because of the injuries. Sure, they’ve beaten San Diego, the New York Giants and San Francisco, but the Chargers were in the opener and that’s always a crapshoot. The Giants were still finding their footing in their new offense. And the 49ers were reeling after a loss. Arizona needs to start the tough stretch of its schedule and win before I can say for certain this team is for real. It’s tough to see how good this team is because of all the injuries. Palmer will be the key component to making Arizona a legitimate playoff contender this season and he still is a game or two away from finding his groove. Plus, the defense is still figuring itself out after losing linebacker Matt Shaughnessy for eight weeks and defensive end Calais Campbell for a few. Once Palmer plays a few games, it’ll be easier to decide if Arizona will be a real threat this season.

Bill, do you think the Raiders will be competitive under interim coach Tony Sparano?

Williamson: They certainly looked to be last week. They looked like a different team, on offense at least. They rolled up 396 yards and Carr threw for four touchdowns. We should learn a lot about this team in this game. If the Raiders continue to play improved and with the same fire, it could be interesting to watch this team develop the rest of the season. I will say this: Sparano is very much invested. He is all-in and is trying to take advantage of this opportunity.

Josh, how good has Palmer been as a Cardinal?

Weinfuss: Palmer has been very good, almost a savior of sorts because of the carousel of quarterbacks that had stops in Arizona. He brought a name, talent and an extensive résumé, but none of that mattered on the field. What really helped Palmer, in my opinion, was being coached by Bruce Arians. Arians’ scheme is perfect for Palmer because Palmer is a tall, strong-armed slinger -- exactly what Arians loves. Now, Palmer hasn’t been perfect, but he’s better this season than he was last year, which is a product of him being more comfortable with the offense. Last season, Palmer was a bit of a loose cannon, throwing 22 interceptions on plays that, when you look back at them, had you scratching your head. This year, though, he’s making smart decisions and keeping his passes -– sometimes with the grace of luck -- out of the other teams’ hands.

Bill, do the Raiders miss Palmer?

Williamson: They did last year. Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin were not the answer. Neither was Matt Schaub this year. But the best thing for Oakland was to take Derek Carr and give him the ball. If Oakland has a chance to be competitive in the near future, it will be because of Carr's progress. Oakland might have won more games up until this point in the past 21 games with Palmer, but he was just a short-term answer. Carr can be the future.

How stout is the Cardinals’ run defense?

Weinfuss: It’s hard to argue with the stats. The Cardinals are ranked third in the NFL in stopping the run, picking up where they left off last year when they finished No. 1 against the run. It’s impressive and surprising considering how many key elements Arizona lost on the defensive front seven. From last year’s season finale, only one player in the front seven is healthy (nose tackle Dan Williams). Whomever Arizona signs has been able to step into a new role quickly, which is most likely a design of the scheme.

Bill, do you think the Raiders have figured out their run-game troubles?

Williamson: It’s sort of like the Sparano question -- we will see. But I will say this: Both Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew ran with authority and a purpose neither had shown this season against San Diego. Sparano loves the run and will stay true to it. Sunday, McFadden and Jones-Drew will get plenty of chances to repeat their performances and show that the Raiders’ average of 62 yards per game in the first quarter of the season (which was last in the NFL) was a fluke.

TEMPE, Ariz. – It’s one play in one game in one season.

But when Patrick Peterson is the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, the spotlight gets a little brighter, and allowing a 64-yard touchdown isn’t just one play anymore. When Peterson has a bad game, as he did Sunday against Washington, the critics come to roost.

“It comes with the territory by being the highest paid cornerback in the league and being recognized as being one of the best cornerbacks in the league,” Peterson said. “Is that something that I might shy away from? Not at all. Is that something I’m scared of? Am I worried about the concerns or the criticism I’m getting thus far this season? Not at all because I have 11 more games to go so I have a lot of games to improve thus far throughout this season.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson, DeSean Jackson
Rick Scuteri/Associated PressPatrick Peterson was burned a couple times by the Washington Redskins, including on this 64-yard TD reception by DeSean Jackson.
“I do believe I’m not playing to the best of my ability right now but that’s definitely going to change.”

Against Washington he allowed 122 yards -- 97 after the catch -- and two touchdowns on five receptions to two receivers, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Not good for him,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Got beat on an inside route when he was supposed to have inside technique -- can’t happen. When you’re playing inside man-to-man you have to force the guy outside. It was not his best game.”

Arians doesn’t think Peterson’s struggles stem from a lack of concentration, instead developing from sometimes being overaggressive.

“Trying to get a jam instead of using your athletic ability,” Arians said. “Most of his things are technique.”

But general manager Steve Keim believes when Peterson struggles it’s because of a lack of concentration for all 60 minutes. During his weekly radio spot on Monday, Keim promised Peterson’s focus would improve this weekend.

The three-time Pro Bowler disagreed. He said his focus isn’t an issue and his $70 million extension wasn’t a distraction. But Peterson later said that he needs to be more aware that he could be targeted on any snap.

The 64-yard touchdown by Washington’s DeSean Jackson looked like evidence of that. Peterson tried to force Jackson to the outside, between the numbers and the Redskins’ sideline. But Jackson got a step on Peterson about three yards past the line of scrimmage. Washington’s Kirk Cousins put his pass just beyond Peterson’s fingertips and Jackson caught it. He took off for a 64-yard touchdown, one of the four Peterson has given up this season.

Peterson said his mistake on the play was not getting his head around fast enough.

When Peterson struggles, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles it’s usually because he was in coverage too long.

“Patrick’s one of the reasons we can do a lot of things we do inside, so for him to give up a pass or two here or there doesn’t mean he struggles, just means we left him out there too long,” Bowles said.

“We have to do a little more to help him. For what he brings to the table and what he allows us to do you can’t compare that.”

The addition of cornerback Antonio Cromartie this season has kept Peterson on one side of the field. Of his 303 snaps this season, 254 of them have been on the left side. It’s forced him to study more and be more patient, but it’s also allowed Bowles to run more blitzes.

“Obviously he has a lot of trust in us because our defense is built around the corners man-on-man on the outside,” Peterson said. “Because we do so much blitzing and try to help guys in the interior of the defense pretty much leaves us out on the island by ourselves, and it leaves us that much more open for exposure.

“You have to love this position because one Sunday you can be great, the next Sunday you can be horrible, the following Sunday after that you can be mediocre, so that’s the great thing about this job about playing cornerback.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's easy for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to look back on his 18 months in Oakland and talk about the good parts of being a Raider.

He loved living in the Bay Area. He raves about Raider Nation's commitment. He admires the shield.

He can say those things because he's in a better place now.

"I loved it," Palmer said. "There's something special about being a Raider. There's just something different and it's different than any other team and every guy that plays for the Raiders says that. So, it was an awesome experience, just timing didn't work out with everything that was going on with the salary cap and all the crazy turnover and all that.

"There was so much chaos. There were so many things with the roster that needed to change. It was just bad timing."

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer & Jared Veldheer
AP Photo/Tom HauckCarson Palmer said that he "loved" his time with the Raiders but also that it was "just an odd time" for the franchise.
When Palmer was traded to Arizona in April 2013, he entered a stable environment for the first time since his early years in Cincinnati. But his arrival in the desert came with questions. The Cardinals, after all, were also a franchise notorious for losing and were coming off a five-win season. And, a few months earlier, they had hired a new coach in Bruce Arians.

"Then you see the way the GM [Steve Keim] and the head coach work and you see how the owner is super hands-on but not really," Palmer said. "He just wants to win and he wants to make sure he's got the right guys in the right spots, and he's done that."

The Cardinals, in all their losing, weren't the Raiders -- especially the Raiders of the past dozen years, the ones who recently fired their seventh head coach since their last trip to the Super Bowl in 2002.

When Palmer was traded from Cincinnati to Oakland at the trade deadline in 2011, he wasn't ready to give up football, despite telling the Bengals he'd rather retire than play for them. And, five days after being traded, Palmer was playing for the Raiders. He replaced Kyle Boller in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs -- two weeks before what the team had targeted for his first start. It was like being handed the keys to a car he didn't know how to drive.

"It was weird because we were getting beat pretty good at that point in the second half, this guy's going in and taking control of something with such an upbeat and positive attitude and getting everybody on the same page," said Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer, who played with Palmer in Oakland in 2011 and 2012. "And not being a part of the offense the entire season, he was still making sure he knew what routes receivers were running.

"It was just a step above literally going out there and having to draw some stuff up in the dirt, but it was awesome because he went out there and did it and there were no hitches in it."

Palmer lost his Raiders debut, but he finished 4-5 in his first, shortened season. Oakland barely missed the playoffs.

Despite Palmer's relative success, the Raiders asked him to restructure his contract in the offseason, and he obliged. Then coach Hue Jackson was fired by general manager Reggie McKenzie, who brought in his guy, Dennis Allen, to coach. Allen was fired this season after the Raiders started 0-4.

The losing continued in 2012, when Oakland went 4-12 and Palmer threw for 4,018 yards. After the season, the Raiders asked Palmer to take another pay cut. This time, he declined. About a week later, he was traded to the Cardinals.

By Week 14 of Palmer's first season in Arizona, he had already won eight games -- his total during his time in Oakland.

"It ended abruptly," Palmer said. "They obviously wanted to go in a different direction, and they expressed that to me when they wanted to, obviously, tear up my contract and they wanted to, obviously, move on and go with Terrelle Pryor and draft a young guy, and that's what they did. I have no hard feelings at all. I loved my time there."

If the stress of losing with the Raiders ever got to him, Palmer never let it affect him on the field.

"I think he handled it well," Veldheer said. "He never really let it show. Never let on if he was feeling any certain way about it. He never let it show up in practice and in the locker room. Really professional."

Almost three years to the date he was traded to Oakland, Palmer stood in front of his Cardinals locker and said his days in Oakland were a "difficult, difficult time to be successful."

"It was just an odd time," Palmer said. "There's no word. It was odd. One year, everybody had to get cut that was making anything over vet minimum because of the way all those contracts were front-loaded or back-loaded, whatever it was. New coach, new GM, it was just a weird time. Owner had died, the face of the organization. It was just an odd time and unfortunate. Selfishly, it was unfortunate."

Getting traded from one perennial bottom-feeder to another wasn't supposed to be how Palmer returned to the playoffs, but Arizona laid a blueprint last season for how to turn a franchise around. Palmer was one win from the postseason in 2013 and has the Cardinals off to a 4-1 start this season.

"We're just getting started," he said. "I'm getting started here.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I think we're getting ready to define, hopefully, my time here and our time as a team."

Alex Okafor responded in his first start

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
10:00
AM ET


ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss talks about linebacker Alex Okafor and his chance to become an impact player.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Carson Palmer wasn't expecting to throw just 18 passes in his return Sunday, but by the expression on his face when asked about it after the game, he didn't think he'd be throwing 44 passes after not playing for more than a month, either.

But that's what Cardinals coach Bruce Arians dialed up: 44 pass attempts, of which Palmer completed 28 of them for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-20 win over the Washington Redskins.

His total attempts were Palmer's third highest in Arizona and his most this season. Breaking them down with the help of ESPN Stats & Information, there were three a few noticeable trends. His most attempts (14) were thrown in the air between zero and 5 yards. His fewest (two) were on passes 21 yards or longer in the air. And Palmer was perfect throwing backward (8-for-8).

 

Palmer threw 27 of his 44 passes 10 yards or shorter, and he averaged 11 passes per quarter with his most (13) coming in the third.

His first touchdown pass came on a 20-yard pass to Michael Floyd that sailed all 20 yards in the air, and his second, a 24-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald, went 8 yards in the air, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Palmer's two longest passes, both 35 yards each, came in the fourth quarter on consecutive plays and both fell incomplete.

Palmer's most productive quarter was the third, when he went 10-for-13 for 90 yards while orchestrating a 14-play drive that ate up 10:47 of game clock. Although Arizona didn't score a touchdown, they extended their lead to 17-13 with a field goal.

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