When evaluating Carson Palmer over the past three months, Arizona Cardinals first-year general manager Steve Keim depended heavily on the team's new video system that provided him with a detailed view of all of Palmer's passing attempts from the last three seasons.
Keim came away pleasantly surprised with Palmer's arm strength and accuracy. Though Palmer will turn 34 in December and hasn't been to the Pro Bowl since 2006, Keim believes he can flourish in Bruce Arians' passer-friendly system.
“A lot of times in this business, you base your opinions on reputations. When you study a guy, you come away disappointed or surprised,” Keim told the Arizona Republic. “In this case, I saw that Carson still has the zing and can still make all the throws. That's huge, especially with what Bruce wants out of his quarterback.”
Palmer will join a Cardinals' offense that has had difficulty protecting the quarterback the past two seasons. In 14 starts with Arizona since the start of the 2011 season, former Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb was sacked 57 times. The Cardinals also finished 2012 ranked last in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass attempt.
But Palmer is adept at handling a heavy pass rush. In situations when he faced pressure last season, he had a 74.7 quarterback rating and completed 52.5 percent of his passes according to Pro Football Focus. By comparison, Peyton Manning completed 49.1 percent of his attempts when pressured and had a 50.3 rating, the website found. Manning, who ranked first by Pro Football Focus among starting quarterbacks in passing efficiency, only encountered pressure on 131 of 655 attempts (20 percent). Palmer faced it on 189 of 406 (46.5 percent).
Palmer also fared better against the rush than Andrew Luck, who started all 16 games in Arians' system in Indianapolis. Although Luck finished with an 84.2 rating when he didn't face pressure, the rating dropped to 56.0 in high-pressure situations. Luck completed 39.4 percent of his pass attempts when pressured.
As CBSSports.com NFL Insider Pat Kirwan noted last week, Palmer expertly handled the blitz in comparison with a number of elite quarterbacks in the league. Sacked only one time in 21 blitz attempts on the season, Palmer succumbed to the blitz at a lower rate than Joe Flacco (1:11.5), Cam Newton (1:11.9), Philip Rivers (1:12.7), Ben Roethlisberger (1:14.3) and Peyton (1:19.9), according to Kirwan. Palmer also threw more touchdowns against the blitz than all but four starting quarterbacks in the league.
The former Heisman Trophy winner's success against the blitz is not a one-year anomaly. In 2010, Palmer's last season with the Bengals, he finished with a 91.0 quarterback rating when he was blitzed, Pro Football Focus found.
The Cardinals could pursue an offensive tackle with the No. 7 pick overall in the NFL Draft. Three tackles -- Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M, Eric Fisher of Central Michigan and Lane Johnson of Oklahoma -- are ranked in the Top 10 in CBSSports.com's latest Draft projections.
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