Carson Palmer and his fit into the Arizona Cardinals offense

Palmer at OTAs - USA TODAY Sports

A breakdown of Palmer's deep throws in 2012 and what that means for 2013.

There seems to be an interesting, ongoing discussion as to how good Carson Palmer was, is and will be.

There's the side of the group that looks at his 2012 season, sees an incredible effort in Oakland, and just transposes those numbers over to his first season in the desert, and then adds to those numbers because he'll finally have a good wide receiver group to throw too.

There is nothing wrong with those thoughts. They make sense in a vacuum simply because, when you take the names at wide receiver in Oakland and then trade them out for the names in Arizona, there you have it.

The problem with that is that it is not how the game works.

In 2012 the Raiders were, to put it bluntly, spectacularly bad.

It came out the other day that of Palmer's 565 pass attempts in 2012, nearly 400 of them were when the Raiders were trailing by seven points or more.

That's an insane amount of passes thrown when trailing.

Add to that fact that just under 60% of Palmer's 2012 pass attempts traveled 5 yards or less in the air and you have to take the low interception percentage, 2.5% the second lowest of Palmer's career in fact, with a grain of salt.

Palmer's career interception percentage is 3.2%, and I know what you're thinking, 0.7%, does that really make a difference?

Well, if Palmer was just at his average in 2012, his numbers go from 14 interceptions to 18 interceptions, which would have taken him from the middle of the league to the second most, with Arians' 2012 quarterback Andrew Luck.

Again, of the 565 passes thrown by Palmer, 334 of those passes traveled 5 yards or less in the air, or 59.11%.

Then you look at what he did deep, or what I have called the "intermediate Arians Passes", those that travel 10 yards or more in the air:

2012 Palmer 10-19 yards: 76/114 66.6% 4 TDs 2 INTs

You look at those numbers and compare them to what Andrew Luck did in 2012:

10-19 yards: 93/177 52.5% 4 TDs 9 INTs

And to what Ben Roethlisberger did in 2011:

10-19 yards: 95/160 59.4% 7 TDs 6 INTs

Palmer was substantially better in 2012 throwing the intermediate Arians passes than either of the previous two Arians quarterbacks, but he also threw less of those passes throughout the season.

Then you look at the "deep Arians passes", those that travel 20+ yards in the air:

2012 Palmer: 14/60 23% 5 TDs 3 INTs
2012 Luck: 36/108 33% 9TDs 6INTs
2011 Roethlisberger: 24/75 32% 7TDs 5INTs

Palmer was significantly worse than the last two Arians quarterbacks getting the ball deep, and did it less, only 10.6% of Palmer's throws in 2012 were actual deep passes traveling 20+ yards in the air.

What was the problem last season? Was it on Palmer? Was it on the wide receivers?

I went back and looked at all 60 of the passes of 2012. It didn't take long since 60 passes isn't a lot with the search function offered by Game Rewind, and there were some common things I saw in those misses.


On this play, we see Palmer getting into a deep set, with the two receivers on the wide side of the field both running just straight nine routes.

First, the creativity here is lacking, but that doesn't mean this play wasn't open. As we see here, the inside receiver beat his man, the help gets over late, and yet Palmer misses him, or he misses the outside receiver that is covered on the play. Either way, he misses each of the receivers badly.


When Palmer needs to put the ball out there and let his receiver run under the ball, he missed consistently.

When I charted the throws, one of the things I noticed was when the route continued to go vertical deep, whether that was on a streak, skinny post, corner, anything that carried the receiver vertically throughout the route, there seemed to be either communication issues, or issues with touch.

When Palmer was throwing routes that carried the receiver horizontally across the field, or coming back to the quarterback: outs, slants, digs, hooks, etc., there is still excellent touch on his throws. He fits the ball into tight windows, and he gets the ball to the receiver where they can catch the ball, turn up the field and make a play after they get the ball in their hands.


On this play, we see the Raiders lined up in a 4 wide 3x1, with Rod Streater to the narrow side of the field.

Streater is able to push towards the middle of the field before getting a clean break out and getting behind the dropping linebacker and the corner in zone coverage. Palmer places the ball in a small window that few, if any quarterbacks can still get the ball into, just above the 20 yard mark on the throw.


This sets up a long 64-yard field goal for the Raiders that Sebastian Janikowski misses, but the throw put them in a position to win the game.

It was a great throw and shows the Palmer can still push the ball down the field, just not in the normal vertical sense.

He is able to get the ball onto different levels of the field accurately, whether that's short, intermediate or deep, but he does so with timing routes that are stretching the field horizontally, which still fits wonderfully in Arians vertical attack, just not the way we think of it.

Much of what Palmer and Arians will want to do is attack the different levels on the field as we touched on in May, but stretching the defense a combination of vertically and horizontally.

We as fans shouldn't see a lot of purely vertical route options, as it has shown not to play into Palmer's strengths right now, but they will still be attacking down the field, and that should make things interesting.

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