Training Camp is officially underway and expectations couldn’t be higher for the Arizona Cardinals.
Riding the high of a 10-6 campaign in 2013, Arizona begins the preseason with high praise from around the nation and lofty goals. Still, head coach Bruce Arians knows in the brutal NFC West, all for that means nothing.
“It’s good, better than being 32nd,” Arians said after the Cardinals first walkthrough on Saturday. “But I don’t put a lot of stock into it. It can all change with an injury or two. I think we are a quality football team that plays in a tough division. We have to win the division.”
Whether or not the Cardinals take that next step in 2014 could come down to the play of veteran quarterback Carson Palmer.
Palmer’s career in the NFL has been a bit of a roller coaster, from the highs – his playoff run with the Bengals – to the lows – various injuries and his exits from Cincinnati and Oakland. But one season in Arizona has brought something that has been missing in Palmer’s career for quite some time: stability.
“It’s awesome,” said Palmer. “Just being able to come into camp and prepare, knowing how stable everything is. It’s not up and down last it has been in the past. I feel different than I’ve ever felt.”
Stability is also a little foreign to the Cardinals. Gone are the days of quarterback flip-flopping that seemed to take place every summer during training camp. From Kevin Kolb to Derek Anderson and John Skelton to Max Hall, it’s reassuring to see number 3 under center. The Cardinal that probably appreciates this quarterback stability the most is Larry Fitzgerald.
“It’s going on year two and we’ve had a great rapport,” Fitzgerald said. “He can look at me and I can understand what he wants me to do. It’s comforting to have that rapport with your quarterback.”
The continuity with Palmer could pay bigger dividends on offense. With two key losses on defense (Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby), more will be expected on the offensive side of the ball. We saw a glimpse of what might come in the second half of the season last year.
After shaky start, Palmer looked more comfortable in the final 8 games in 2013, leading the Cardinals to a 6-2 record while throwing 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Still, the 34-year-old veteran has been through enough to know not to get complacent.
“It doesn’t matter how long you play, the game consistently evolves,” Palmer said. “There’s a ton of room to learn and better understand the game.”
Every team in the NFL has high hopes in July, but with the Cardinals – and with Palmer – high hopes are a welcomed change from the alternative.