NFL Nation: Andrew Luck
Hasselbeck is predicting more than 4,000 yards and 20 touchdown passes for Palmer. However, he also thinks the team's emphasis on deeper passes will expose Palmer to considerable punishment, a concession he thinks the Cardinals are willing to make as they push the ball downfield.
"Carson doesn't play with the best anticipation in terms of quarterbacks in the National Football League," Hasselbeck said. "He waits for things to develop, holds onto the ball. You get hit when that happens. You get sacked when that happens."
Palmer ranked 10th last season among qualifying quarterbacks in average time before the pass, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He was at 3.37 seconds. Tom Brady was first at 3.03 seconds. The average was 3.46 seconds for 32 qualifying quarterbacks. Palmer ranked eighth in lowest sack rate, taking sacks on 4.4 percent of drop-backs.
The figures for Palmer suggest he does a pretty good job getting rid of the football and avoiding sacks. However, that is not the full story. Andrew Luck ranked first and Palmer third last season in number of times hit while throwing, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The figure was 46 for Luck, 30 for Brady and 28 for Palmer. So, even though Brady and Palmer got rid of the ball more quickly than most, they also took more hits on pass plays when they did not take sacks.
ESPN's quarterback hit numbers reflect only those plays when the QB was hit while throwing, not plays when he was hit after throwing.
Palmer played for the Oakland Raiders last season. His new head coach in Arizona, Bruce Arians, was running the Indianapolis Colts' offense with Luck behind center. Luck ranked 27th in time before the pass (3.76 seconds on average). Luck took sacks on 5.9 percent of drop-backs, right around the 5.7 percent average for the 32 qualifying quarterbacks. Luck also took lots of hits.
Bottom line: Palmer could take quite a few hits even if he does a good job avoiding sacks.
Newton did finish strong last season. He is supremely talented. He could outperform those other quarterbacks. But I would challenge the idea that Wilson and Kaepernick relied disproportionately on their running ability.
"Wilson, RG III and Kaepernick each have some throwing ability, but they aren’t pure pocket passers, and their big 2012 seasons came largely because of their mobility," Yasinskas writes.
Dispelling myths about Kaepernick and Wilson has become sport around here. These young quarterbacks run because they can, not because they're deficient as passers. Wilson in particular throws effectively from outside the pocket, but like Kaepernick, he's been among the NFL's best from inside it, too.
Wilson does rely heavily on his scrambling ability to find receivers downfield. But as the charts below demonstrate, he and Kaepernick stack up very well as pocket passers, too. They were better than Newton in this area last season.
Both charts include stats only for games each player started. Kaepernick played in a reserve role also.
The second chart shows production from inside the pocket for the same quarterbacks, limited to the final six games of the regular season. I chose that time frame because, as Yasinskas indicates, Newton became more effective following the Panthers' 2-8 start, partly because the team "let Newton be a pocket passer," according to Yasinskas.
Newton did become more effective as a pocket passer during this time. However, Wilson and Kaepernick also gained momentum as pocket passers during this time.
We'll revisit this one during the season.
Since early last season, it seems Newton has been overshadowed by a bunch of young quarterbacks. Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III started winning and took a lot of attention off Newton, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick and the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011.
But it would be a huge mistake for anyone to overlook Newton. Call it bouncing back, breaking through or whatever you want, but I’m predicting a big 2013 season from the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers. Yeah, I’ll even step out on a limb and say he has a better 2013 season than Wilson, Kaepernick, Luck and RG III.
Several reasons pop to mind, but let’s start with this -- Newton has more all-around talent than any of those guys.
Luck can pass nicely, but opposing defenses don’t have to game plan for his running ability. Wilson, RG III and Kaepernick each have some throwing ability, but they aren’t pure pocket passers, and their big 2012 seasons came largely because of their mobility.
Newton is capable of more than any of those guys, because he’s as mobile as RG III, Kaepernick and Wilson. At the same time, he’s as good a pocket passer as Luck.
A lot of people think Newton slumped in 2012. But that’s not necessarily true. His numbers were comparable to his rookie season, but his visibility lessened because the Panthers didn’t take the leap many expected.
They went 7-9 and were largely overlooked.
But you can’t overlook Newton and the Panthers headed into the 2013 season, and that takes us back to Newton’s rare ability. He is so talented, I don’t think Carolina’s coaching staff really knew how to maximize his ability in his first two seasons.
For reasons that never have been explained and I sure as heck can’t figure out, the Carolina coaching staff didn’t take advantage fully of what Newton brings or what else was on the roster at the start of last season.
Although the Panthers had a talented (and very pricey) backfield with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, they barely used that trio at the start of last season. Instead, they featured Newton heavily in the read-option early last season.
In other words, they turned their quarterback into a running back.
Opposing defenses didn’t have to worry much about Newton’s passing, and that was one of the major reasons the Panthers got off to a 2-8 start.
Rob Grabowski/US PresswireA physical running game led by Jonathan Stewart could help quarterback Cam Newton turn the Panthers into a contender next season.
Rivera and his staff took notice of what happened late in the season, and that is another reason I think Newton is in for a big season. Rivera has said he wants to rely more heavily on the power running game in 2013.
In other words, it sounds like the Panthers are going to let their running backs be running backs, and they’re going to let Newton be a quarterback. That sounds to me like a formula for success.
Carolina is going through a change. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski left to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and former quarterbacks coach Mike Shula is taking over the play-calling duties.
Shula had a reputation for being too conservative when he was the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay, and the head coach at the University of Alabama. But, like Newton, I think Shula is ready for a breakout season.
Part of the reason Shula was so conservative in previous stops was because he didn’t have big-time talent at the skill positions. He has that talent now with Newton, the running backs, receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen.
I still expect Shula to be a bit more of a traditionalist than Chudzinski, but I think that’s a good thing. He’s going to rely on that running game more, and that’s going to open up the passing game for Newton.
Newton threw for more than 7,900 yards in his first two seasons. He also rushed for more than 700 yards in each of his first two seasons.
Newton’s legs are a valuable asset, and the Panthers can’t ignore that. The Panthers can use the threat of Newton’s running skills to keep defenses off balance, but they also need to keep their offense balanced.
I think they need to adjust things a bit and take an approach similar to what they were using at the end of last season. Scrap the read-option, or at least cut way back on it. Let Newton use his legs to scramble and keep plays alive.
But, first and foremost, let Newton be a passer.
There aren’t many quarterbacks in the league with Newton’s arm strength. The Panthers need to play to that strength.
If they do, Newton won’t be overlooked anymore, and this team could be in the playoffs.
That’s the new offensive coordinator’s way of saying don’t put the Colts in a box. They’ll combine a lot of different elements in the system Andrew Luck runs in his second year.
That’s a relief to fans of what the Colts did last season, when Bruce Arians had Luck really push the ball down the field. He notched nearly 7 yards per attempt.
The number will not be the same in 2013, but coach Chuck Pagano said the Colts aren’t going to go from big to small in the passing game.
Here’s a chunk of what Pagano told me in a recent conversation when I asked if the passing game will be more conservative.
“If we have success running the football, if we don’t get behind, that takes pressure off of everybody," Pagano said. "Certainly we want to have balance. The way you have balance is you’ve got to have success running the football and get yourself in third-and-manageable so you can convert a higher percentage. You can’t get behind and have to drop back 628 times; it’s too much. You never want to put your quarterback or your offensive line in that situation. If we can hammer the nail, it’s going to take the pressure off of everybody. We’re still going to take our shots.
“I was only in Oakland a short time, but one thing I did learn from Mr. [Al] Davis, God rest his soul, was about throwing the ball down the field. Nobody loved throwing the ball down the field more than we did last year, right? Bruce loves throwing the ball down the field. Huge plays, we call them chunk plays, are vital. We’re still going to take our shots down the field. How many that is a game and what we’re going to ask as far as the offensive line provided time, I can’t tell you. The game will dictate that. But you’ve got to be able to hit your chunk plays, have a vertical game. The threat of that has still got to be there otherwise defenses are going to be sitting on all our receivers. We’ve still got some guys who can run. ...
“By no means are we going to be a dink and dunk, pure West Coast, if you will, three-step drop and get the ball out. I’m sure there'll be a little bit of that flavor built in, but we’re still going to take our shots.”
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus is a certainly as a new starter, and Donald Thomas should win a starting guard slot.
Now Hugh Thornton, a guard from Illinois, is the Colts third-round pick, 86th overall.
Mike McGlynn was the starter at right guard in 2012 while Joe Reitz started eight games at left guard and Jeff Linkenbach started four there last year. Seth Olsen, who was also in the mix, is gone.
Those three holdovers will likely be in a battle with Thomas and Thornton and the newcomers should rank as favorites given their pedigrees.
The Colts line had no answers for J.J. Watt last year. In a December Texans' win in Houston, the defensive player of the year had six tackles for a loss including three sacks and a forced fumble.
That effort prompted this from GM Ryan Grigson:
"You need elite offensive line play to block elite defensive linemen like Watt with any consistency. If you don't play near-perfect from a technique standpoint, he will eat you alive. Six-foot-six, 290 with motor and instincts. A true game wrecker."
Who knows if Thornton will be part of a solution? When he gets a chance, he may not show elite technique but he could show elite toughness. According to Scouts Inc., Thornton rates as exceptional in that category.
Aggressive mauler that blocks to the whistle and can get under defender's skin but doesn't appear to be a hothead prone to personal foul calls. Always looking for someone to hit and uncoils on linebackers at the second level. Looks to deliver kill shot whenever gets a chance to blind side defender in space or help guard out when no one comes to him in pass protection.
That doesn't render these exercises irrelevant. They're an important part of preparation.
My thinking regarding mock drafts is similar. Focusing on how many selections they correctly forecast risks missing the broader point. Mock drafts have value as exercises. They help us think through some of the nearly endless potential scenarios.
If some of the "projections" line up with how the draft actually unfolds, all the better. But who are we fooling here? Not even the NFL teams themselves could predict with accuracy how a draft will actually unfold. As noted previously, there would be 263,130,836,933,693,530,167,218,012,160,000,000 ways to order the first round if we knew which 32 players would become first-round picks. But we cannot even know that.
A year ago, ESPN's divisional NFL bloggers got together for a mock draft in which each of us made the selections for the teams we cover. It was lots of fun. We wound up projecting eight of the first 13 picks to the correct teams, five of them in the correct slots. But so what? The fun was in the process.
I'll be shocked if we come anywhere close to matching eight first-round picks to the right teams from our 2013 blogger mock draft, set to begin at noon ET.
The 2013 draft seems tougher to predict without prized quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III available as slam-dunk choices for the teams holding the first couple selections. That's OK. We're going to have fun thinking through the possibilities. Rules allow for trades, which will enhance the experience at the expense of accuracy. Matt Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, will critique the process in real time.
Those of us participating in the draft will face dilemmas when certain players become available later than we anticipated. Should we select them based on value, or should we stick with the selections we think are most likely to happen on draft day?
We'll post to the blog at noon ET a console allowing you to come along for the ride. I'll be making the seventh, 16th, 22nd and 31st picks for NFC West teams. Those slots could change based on trades. Last year, I traded the 12th pick from Seattle to New England for the 27th and 31st picks. I wound up having the Seahawks select Chandler Jones at No. 27. The Patriots wound up selecting him 21st instead.
Two things they did poorly: protected their quarterback (thought Andrew Luck held the ball too long too often) and pressured the other quarterback.
Per ESPN Stats & Info: The Colts’ pass rush sacked, hit or put the quarterback under duress on 17.8 percent of drop-backs, the second-worst rate in the league. When the Colts sent four or fewer pass-rushers, they averaged a sack every 23.7 drop-backs, nearly five drop-backs worse than the NFL average (18.9).
Meanwhile, Luck was sacked, hit while throwing or under duress on 27.5 percent of his drop-backs, the third-highest rate among qualified quarterbacks. Luck was hit or under duress on 161 action plays, 33 more times than the next-closest quarterback (Josh Freeman: 128).
While I think the Colts will add an offensive lineman in the draft, the free-agent acquisitions of right tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas, addressed the issue on the offensive side of the ball.
The defensive acquisitions hardly addressed the pass rush to the same degree. Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois may increase the push up front. Safety LaRon Landry and cornerback Greg Toler can upgrade the coverage.
But Robert Mathis is now the lone standout rusher on the roster, and the new strongside linebacker, Erik Walden, is far better against the run than as a threat to quarterbacks. Jerry Hughes shouldn't be counted on as anything more than the third option as a rush linebacker.
The Colts need more of a pass rush.
Breakdown: The Oakland Raiders are trying to improve their secondary. The group will be tested immediately. Oakland starts the 2013 season at Indianapolis and faces quarterback Andrew Luck in Week 1. In Week 3, the Raiders travel to Denver to face Peyton Manning in a Monday night game. In Week 4, Oakland faces Robert Griffin III and Washington. In Week 5, the Raiders play Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. So, we will learn a lot about this evolving defense early in the season. If the Raiders can hang on, they could control their own destiny late in the season. They play each AFC West foe in the final three weeks of the season, including a home date against defending AFC West champion Denver in Week 17.
Complaint department: The Raiders do a ton of traveling from Weeks 10-14. In that time span, the Raiders have one home game squeezed between four road games. The Raiders visit the New York Giants on Nov. 10 and go back to visit the Jets on Dec. 8. In that month span they travel more than 16,000 miles. Last season, 21 teams traveled fewer miles than that the entire season. But that’s kind of the way it goes for a team on the West Coast.
Turkey Day time: The Raiders will play at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. The Raiders lost at Dallas on Thanksgiving in 2009. The Dallas game and the Monday night game at Denver are Oakland’s only nationally televised games.
Raiders Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 8, at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 15, Jacksonville, 4:25 PM
Week 3: Monday, Sep. 23, at Denver, 8:30 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 29, Washington, 4:25 PM
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, San Diego, 4:25 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, Pittsburgh, 4:05 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Philadelphia, 4:05 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at NY Giants, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, at Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, Tennessee, 4:05 PM
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 28, at Dallas, 4:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, at NY Jets, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Kansas City, 4:05 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at San Diego, 4:25 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Denver, 4:25 PM
“He said, ‘People are saying we’re running the West Coast offense,” backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said on The Midday 180 in Nashville Tuesday afternoon, a show of which I am a part. “He said, ‘We’re running the No Coast Offense. I don’t care what people have done in the past, we’re going to do whatever it takes.’
“So, ironically, you can feel the footprint of Peyton Manning and that offense still in this playbook, stuff that they’ve done. Stuff that was good with Reggie Wayne. Stuff that was just good for the guys here, that’s worked with Clyde Christensen, the quarterbacks coach. Then there is a good element of the stuff that Bruce Arians had success with last year that worked with Andrew (Luck). Then there is the stuff that Pep did at Stanford with Jim Harbaugh and kind of what the 49ers are doing.
“For me, someone who’s played in kind of the West Coast verbage a good part of my career, the plays, I am swimming learning this playbook right now. It’s not just cookie cutter West Coast like people would say at all. They are putting a lot on every player.”
Hasselbeck said they’ve already looked at about a dozen personnel groupings.
"I don’t think I could put it in a box even if I knew enough about it right now," Hasselbeck said. "It’s really going to be diverse."
One of the big questions for the Colts this season will be about how the offense carries over some of what worked so well under Arians, now the Arizona Cardinals' head coach.
While Arians really pushed the ball downfield, Hamilton’s philosophy has traditionally included West Coast elements, with a run game setting up play-action and more short, high-percentage throws for the quarterback.
No matter how married Hamilton is to the philosophies he brought to Indianapolis with him, any good coordinator coming into a new situation is wise to hold over some of the best parts of what preceded him.
It sounds like Hamilton will be thinking that way and that’s good news for Luck and the Colts.
Find the whole Hasselbeck interview here.
Also, Hasselbeck came up with a creative way to get his old No. 8 from third-string QB Chandler Harnish.
Who is one potential breakout player for each AFC South team in 2013?
Houston Texans: Receiver DeVier Posey would be the guy, but he is recovering from a serious Achilles injury suffered in the playoff loss in New England. It’s a veteran roster with known commodities at most spots. Brandon Brooks played some in the final six games of the season. The second-year right guard has shed some weight and will be in far better position to unseat fellow 2012 draft pick Ben Jones for the starting job.
Indianapolis Colts: In Oakland, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey endured frequent coaching, coordinator and quarterback changes. The hope is some stability will help the him settle in and become more regularly productive in Pep Hamilton’s offense with Andrew Luck as his quarterback. Perhaps in a new setting, Heyward-Bey's speed will translate better into game speed, and he can grow into a target better able to make catches outside his frame.
Jacksonville Jaguars: We’ll have to see just how much the Jaguars add at cornerback in the draft, but second-year man Mike Harris is in prime position to establish himself as a primary contributor. He currently rates as the No. 1 corner on the team where Alan Ball is second. However, Harris is 5-foot-10, 188 pounds, and new coach Gus Bradley is coming from Seattle, where his defensive system put a premium on big corners.
Tennessee Titans: Outside linebacker Akeem Ayers certainly made his share of plays in his second season. Near the end he was used more and more as a pass-rusher, and I believe the Titans are considering him as one of their three top rushers -- thus the team’s lack of urgency in adding another defensive end. New senior defensive assistant Gregg Williams is more rush-focused than coordinator Jerry Gray, a former defensive back. That could help Ayers take another big step.
In addition to Jon Gruden's sitdowns with top prospects, primarily quarterbacks, he spoke with ESPN.com's NFC South blogger and Florida resident Pat Yasinskas to flesh out reviews.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is largely regarded as the top quarterback in this draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars are certainly quarterback needy.
I suspect they will head another direction with the No. 2 overall pick.
But we should be learning what we can about Smith as a candidate for the Jaguars. Gruden told Yasinskas the holes some are punching in Smith don't stand up to his scrutiny:
"In this class, I definitely think he's a guy you could take at No. 1, or at least in that range if it's your top need. Sure, a lot of people say he's not as good as Andrew Luck or [Robert] Griffin [III]. Well, last time I checked, those guys aren't in this draft. It's supply and demand. In this league, you need a quarterback, and if you're a general manager or a coach you can't just operate with the idea you're content to wait until you're in the perfect position to take a can't-miss prospect. In this class, the closest thing to that is Smith. And if I needed a quarterback, I'd be willing to take him high.
"We know he can throw the ball. I think he certainly can get a little better at his footwork, and it's something I tried to point out in working with him. But we know and like the overall athleticism he has. In the end, I think he's going to be a heck of a player, and that also has to do with experience."
While NFL fans look at the Jacksonville Jaguars and the upcoming draft and think quarterback, signal-caller isn’t actually the long-standing issue the team might have the easiest time solving with the No. 2 pick.
Sure, the Jaguars need a quarterback. But this draft doesn’t include anything near the sure-thing types that headlined last year’s draft, when Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the top two picks.
Some analysts read a lot into the attention the team has paid West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. I suspect it was a matter of doing its due diligence.
If I’m the Jaguars, I wait a year and hope that in 2014 there is more of a sure thing quarterback to chase, and that I’ve put together a better team for him to join.
And to be a better team, they need to address their pass rush.
The Jaguars have not had a player record double-digit sacks since 2006. That’s right, Jacksonville has played a half-dozen seasons without a player getting 10 sacks. In fact, since Bobby McCray notched 10 sacks in 2006, the highest total anyone’s had is eight, by Jeremy Mincey in 2011.
Jaguars sack leaders since 2006:
- 2007: Paul Spicer, 7.5
- 2008: Reggie Hayward, 4.5
- 2009: John Henderson, 3.0
- 2010: Jeremy Mincey, 5.0
- 2011: Jeremy Mincey, 8.0
- 2012: Tyson Alualu, 3.5
Enter Dion Jordan of Oregon. In the above video, Todd McShay tabs Jordan as the best edge pass-rusher in the draft. He’s got a great combination of size and athleticism and seems like the kind of guy who can help transform a defensive front.
Sports Science worked with Jordan and found he’s got 3.8 percent body fat, spins faster than Dwight Freeney and has the potential of DeMarcus Ware. This video will get you excited about the guy.
I’m guessing the odds of regretting passing on a player like Jordan for a quarterback are higher than the odds of regretting passing on Smith for a pass-rusher.
There are other spots in the mix, of course, like offensive tackle.
But a little over two weeks before the draft, the guy who has me most intrigued when I think of the Jaguars and the No. 2 spot is Jordan.
Some are sure to be upgrades, like right tackle Gosder Cherilus and safety LaRon Landry. Others require a wait-and-see approach as we find out how strongside linebacker Erik Walden and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois fare with expanded roles.
Despite an 11-win season, Indianapolis headed toward the second season of Ryan Grigson as the general manager, Chuck Pagano as the head coach and Andrew Luck as the quarterback with some significant holes.
With all the additions, the pressure to find answers at certain spots in the draft is significantly lightened. That makes for a far better atmosphere in which to draft.
Here’s my assessment of what they’ve done to fill roster gaps and what now rank as the team’s primary needs with the draft drawing near.
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsGosder Cherilus, left, provides an infusion of talent to a Colts O-line that was lacking it last season.
Cornerback -- Greg Toler could be a fine second starter, but they qualify as three deep at best with Vontae Davis, Toler and Darius Butler. They have to have another solid guy in the mix, and the draft should provide someone who will automatically qualify as better than Cassius Vaughn.
Wide receiver -- Can they get more out of Darrius Heyward-Bey than they got out of Donnie Avery? I would think so. Is DHB going to be the ultimate successor to Reggie Wayne? I highly doubt it. They need to be looking for that guy to go with T.Y. Hilton, their lone long-term sure thing at the position.
Safety -- LaRon Landry is a significant upgrade over Tom Zbikowski. He and Antoine Bethea should be a nice tandem. Joe Lefeged is fine as depth. But in a good safety year and with Bethea heading into his eighth season, I think it would be a good move to add a young player at the spot.
Outside linebacker -- Walden was a controversial addition, but they’ve emphasized his ability to set the edge. That does not make for much of a pass rush opposite Robert Mathis. I hope they aren’t counting on big production from Jerry Hughes or Lawrence Sidbury. They still need a pass-rushing outside 'backer.
Defensive end -- They resigned Fili Moala and hope Cory Redding will be more durable. Newcomer Ricky Jean Francois could start outside and move inside in nickel. Another guy in that mix wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Running back -- Vick Ballard, Donald Brown and Delone Carter are the three-pack that will return. Ballard showed a lot of promise, but the other two are not sure things. Bruce Arians’ offense didn’t throw to backs much. Pep Hamilton’s offense will do so more. If Grigson sees a versatile back as a value, I expect he’ll add one.
Defensive tackle -- Went from being a need to not being a need. Jean Francois will play some tackle and some end. Aubrayo Franklin can be an early-down run-stopper. And they expect Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman to be healthy and equipped to contribute. They could have a lot of options at this spot who fit the 3-4 front.
Quarterback -- They did well replacing Drew Stanton with Matt Hasselbeck as Luck’s backup. The No. 2 was never going to come from the draft.
"Having seen him throw it downfield so many times over the years, as good as it gets," Arians told reporters during a news conference Tuesday. "I know Joe Flacco, as a young guy, has a reputation of being a great deep-ball thrower, but I don’t think there has been anyone better than Carson in the last few years throwing the ball down the football field. It's been his forte forever."
Arians was with the Pittsburgh Steelers when a young Palmer played for the AFC North-rival Cincinnati Bengals.
Palmer was indeed a special talent as the first overall choice in the 2003 draft. Palmer is 33 years old now. He has suffered knee and elbow injuries over the years. Arizona acquired him from the Oakland Raiders for late-round draft considerations. Can he still sling it?
"When I was a young scout with the Browns and watching in pregame warmups, I remember thinking that is what the first overall pick in the draft throws the ball like," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "He doesn't do that anymore, but at times he thinks he can. His mind writes checks that his arm can't cash any more. He’s used to being the best player on the field, the first pick. I don't think he can put the franchise on his back and make Aaron Rodgers-type throws possession after possession."
Even so, Williamson said he thinks Palmer makes the Cardinals much better than they would have been otherwise. He expects Larry Fitzgerald's production to improve dramatically. And he thinks Palmer can throw the ball well enough to hit on some of the downfield throws Arians wants featured in the offense -- albeit at the risk of throwing 20-plus interceptions.
"I think he fits the Arians system," Williamson said. "I don't love him. He's not close to what he once was. At one point, I thought he was one of the four or five best quarterbacks in football. ... He is still an effective player."
The chart shows how many yards past the line of scrimmage quarterbacks' passes traveled on average.
The numbers are instructive when applied to the San Francisco 49ers. Colin Kaepernick ranked first and teammate Alex Smith ranked 34th in average pass length, affirming that the 49ers changed their offense for the stronger-armed Kaepernick.
Andrew Luck, who played in an Arians-coordinated offense with the Indianapolis Colts, ranked a close third behind Kaepernick and Jay Cutler. Palmer ranked 25th while playing for the Raiders. His passes traveled 8.07 yards past the line of scrimmage on average, nearly two full yards behind the average for Kaepernick. That number will presumably rise in Arians' offense.
"We're going to put a running game with it that will help him, and obviously we’ve got a fast, young receiving corps that is excellent," Arians said. "I'll echo about that offensive line -- it's not a problem and it won’t be a problem.
"Our guys went through a ton of injuries last year. Having walked into that room today, that’s as good a looking football team as I’ve seen in my 20 years of coaching, stepping in the first day. There’s not a bad body in the room. It’s a great looking bunch of athletes, and we will never use talent as an excuse."
- The price: The Cardinals are sending a 2013 sixth-round pick (176th overall) and a 2014 seventh-rounder (conditional on Palmer starting at least 13 games, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter) for Palmer and the Raiders' seventh-round pick (219th overall) in 2013. Palmer has started at least 13 games in three of the past four seasons and seven times since first becoming a starter in 2004. The price in draft-choice compensation was so low because the Cardinals knew Oakland would release Palmer in the absence of a trade. General manager Steve Keim and the Cardinals' front office deserve credit for getting a starting quarterback without giving up too much. Sometimes a team acts hastily in the presence of great need, particularly when there's a powerful head coach involved. That arguably happened to an extent with the Kansas City Chiefs when they acquired Alex Smith for a second-round choice. Smith might be more appealing than Palmer, but is he that much more appealing?
- The salary: We'll revisit initial reports on financial compensation once the numbers can be verified and put into context. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Palmer will get $16 million over two years, with $10 million guaranteed. That makes Palmer the obvious starter. And with backup Drew Stanton having received some guaranteed money as well, he becomes the clear No. 2.
- The protection: Cardinals quarterbacks took a league-high 58 sacks last season. The team's new coach, Bruce Arians, favors a downfield passing attack. Arians' quarterback in Indianapolis last season, Andrew Luck, was put under duress and/or hit before throwing a league-high number of times, according to ESPN Stats & Information. What does this mean for the immobile, 33-year-old Palmer? Not as much as those numbers suggest. Palmer ranked seventh among qualifying quarterbacks last season in sacks per drop back. He was at 4.4 percent, below the 5.9 percent average for 32 qualifying quarterbacks. Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan were ahead of Palmer in this category. Offensive lines deserve some blame for sacks, but quarterbacks play a huge role in them. Mobility isn't the key variable, either. Palmer gets the ball out.
- The INTs: Palmer throws interceptions at a high rate. Perhaps he'd be better off taking a few more sacks. Palmer ranks 25th among 29 qualifying quarterbacks over the past three seasons in touchdown-to-interception ratio. Palmer is at 1.22 in this category, ahead of only Mark Sanchez (1.14), Colt McCoy (1.05), Matt Hasselbeck (1.03) and Chad Henne (0.88).
- The impact: Palmer has been an average quarterback in recent seasons as measured by Total QBR. I would expect the Cardinals to win a few more games as a result, perhaps getting into the 8-8 range, all else equal. Arizona posted a 5-11 record last season, but that was misleading. The Cardinals went 1-11 over their final 12 games. The quarterbacking was horrendous. Ryan Lindley, John Skelton and Sanchez were the only quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts to finish with a negative number in points above replacement. That suggests they were not just below average, but also worse than replacement-level players. Palmer finished the season at plus-44.7 in this category. That was 23rd in the NFL out of 39 quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts -- not great, but so much better than Lindley or Skelton.
Back with more in a bit. I've revived Palmer-related charts that ran recently. The one below shows stats following the major injuries Palmer has suffered.