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Carson Palmer by the numbers: Looking at play action passing

We continue breaking down numbers for the Cardinals starting QB.

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Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with our Carson Palmer series, we now look at how he did in 2013 with play action as opposed to without play action, using Pro Football Focus numbers. Their post on all QBs is here.

Play action was not a huge part of the Cardinals' offense last season.

Of Palmer's 572 pass attempts, only 86 came off of play action. Breaking it down further, Palmer dropped back to pass 618 times in 2013. Only 95 of those came on play action -- just over 15 percent of the time.

So it wasn't a big part of the offense. So how did he do?

With play action:

He was 62/86 for 810 yards, two touchdowns and twwo interceptions. That completion percentage -- over 72 percent -- was the second highest in the league on play action. His yards per attempt was solid, too, at 9.4. But what is interesting is that he was no more likely to take a shot down the field on play action than on a straight drop back. His depth of throw was 9.5 yards on average down the field, which is right about his average for the season. Compare that to the league average, which was 10.4 yards down the field.

He was more efficient than the league average, but he did not typically use it to make the deep throws. That can be attributed to a couple of things. One is that Palmer was effective making quick decisions and the other is because of the offensive line. He had to be effective in his quick decisions because the line wasn't going to hold up.

Play action on 1st down:

The Cardinals were most likely to do play action on first down. Of the 95 dropbacks on play action, 56 came on first down. Palmer was 38/52 for 560 yards and two interceptions. He averaged 10.8 yards per attempt and threw the ball an average of 11.1 yards down the field. The league average was a YPA of 9.0 and an average depth of throw of more than 13 yards down the field.

So Palmer was more likely to take a shot down the field than on any other down, but still less often than the rest of the league. He was also effective, but no throw ended up in a touchdown.

The team on the whole ran the ball 236 times and passed the ball 233 times on first down. That's pretty even. But if you take those 95 dropbacks, then it looks like this -- 331 run "looks" and 138 pass "looks"

You have to wonder if, in Year 2 of the offense, the average depth of throw will go up across the board. The offensive line has been upgraded and the players know the offense better.

Without play action:

Palmer was 300/486 for 3464 yards, 22 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and threw the ball down the field an average of 9.8 yards.

Palmer actually threw the ball down the field more when it was not play action, unless it was on first down.

That tells me something -- the play action on second and third down was not convincing. They were taking shots down the field on first down, but then dinking and dunking on play fakes on later downs.


We continue to see a trend. Palmer did best with quicker throws. Whether that is because he is better at that or it was necessitated out of need because of the offensive line, we will know more this year. We also see that play action wasn't a huge part of the Cardinals' offensive game plan last year. Other teams and quarterbacks saw more than 25 percent of their passes on play action, while Arizona was at about 15 percent,.

Will that increase this year with a greater emphasis on Andre Ellington? We will see.