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Arians might be just the coach to get Palmer back on track

The Cardinals' trade for Carson Palmer was a solid move for a team trying to stay up with their division rivals.

It's no secret coach Bruce Arians likes to throw the ball and he's watched plenty of Carson Palmer's passes at field level over the years.

Palmer is coming to Arizona for a bargain $8 million a year when you consider the number of quarterbacks looking for upwards of $20 million a year. Arizona could still take a developmental QB in the draft and build for the future and they still have $9.5 million of salary-cap space if they want to get into the free-agent market.

Last year Arians averaged 42 pass plays a game with rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck. Arians is going to want to continue his throwing ways with Palmer. Palmer has never averaged 42 pass plays a game for a season, but he does have 50 games in his career with 40 or more pass plays. He averaged 38 pass plays a game in 2010, but he assured me right after the trade that his arm was 100 percent and ready to take on the challenge.

Arians realized that to get the most out of his best player, Larry Fitzgerald, he needed a guy who can get the ball to the 30-year-old receiver before his career winds down. Considering the stout NFC West defenses in San Francisco and Seattle, a rookie QB wouldn't have a chance to recognize all the looks and pressures and feature Fitzgerald.

The perception of Palmer among some NFL observers is that his career is near the end. Take a look at some of the situational production last year for Carson Palmer before you jump to that conclusion. I went back and looked at the Tampa Bay, Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans games to study games when he was asked to throw a lot. In those four games he averaged just over 45 throws a game completed 59.3 percent and averaged 363 yards and two touchdowns per game. Arians is not going to hesitate to let him throw it 40-plus times a game.

In third-down situations Palmer had a better QB rating than Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler to name a few. His third-down completion percentage was better than Drew Brees, Luck, Flacco, Romo, Stafford, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and Cutler among others.

Palmer only threw two interceptions in 151 third-down throws (1:75.5). Only Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson threw fewer third-down interceptions among quarterbacks with at least 100 third-down pass plays. When it came to fourth-quarter passing Palmer had the fourth-most yards, the 13th-best QB rating and only six passers had more touchdowns.

Palmer's experience vs. the blitz was evident and Arians knows teams in his division want to bring pressure. Palmer threw more touchdown passes vs. the blitz than every QB except Peyton, Brady, Dalton and Rodgers. His sack ratio was 1 sack for every 21 blitz attempts, which when compared to Joe Flacco (1:11.5), Cam Newton (1:11.9), Rivers (1:12.7), Roethlisberger 1:14.3) and even Peyton Manning 1:19.9) demonstrates Palmer can still handle pressure defenses.

When it comes to the deep ball his numbers aren't bad either. He connected on 49 passes over 20 yards last year, which was 12th best in the NFL and his average long completion of 31.9 yards was the ninth best average in the league. Palmer's nine deep-ball touchdown passes ranked 10th in the league. Arians will take advantage of Palmers arm strength this season.

Palmer now connects with Arians as a 33-year-old veteran and in a way reminds me of when the 34-year-old Rich Gannon connected with Jon Gruden in Oakland for a rebirth in his career. Gannon went on a four-year run of great football. Time will tell if the Palmer-Arians connection pays those kinds of dividends, but I will say it has a decent chance.

 
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