1. Carson Palmer needs to step it up
There was so much optimism surrounding the Arizona Cardinals decision to bring in Carson Palmer as the new starting quarterback, and it was indeed warranted optimism. While Palmer is a below-average starting quarterback at this point in his career, the Cardinals weren’t going to get a better option in the offseason. Beyond that, he was a clear upgrade over the QBs the Cardinals were trotting out ever since Kurt Warner called it quits, and an upgrade at QB combined with a staunch defense looked like a recipe for success. Although the Cardinals aren’t a playoff team by any means, they are 3-2 right now, so things are working out for them.
Palmer had an awful game against the Panthers, though, and there’s no excuse for throwing three interception on that hobbled secondary. He was accurate, but he also only completed a few passes beyond 15 yards. It was definitely a day to forget for Palmer, who had a 57.0 QB Rating in the win. On the season, Palmer has completed less than 60% of his passes, and he also has nine interceptions already.
2. Andre Ellington has to start now
Move over Rashard Mendenhall, there’s a new running back poised to start for the Arizona Cardinals, and he isn’t “just” a third-down RB. Andre Ellington received the same amount of snaps as Mendenhall yesterday, and it’s safe to say that he was much better than the former Pittsburgh Steelers starter. While Mendenhall rumbled for just 43 yards on 17 carries, Ellington sprinted for 52 yards on seven carries and looked sprightly out there. He might not be an ideal No. 1 RB, but I think the Cardinals can definitely make it work. As usual, Ellington showed his value in the passing game with four receptions for 31 yards on four targets. It was an excellent day for Ellington, and he needs to be on the field in almost every situation. He’s a real asset in the passing game for sure, and the numbers state that he is a better rusher than Mendenhall too. Ellington has more upside, and it’s time to start the better back. The Cardinals can’t afford to keep giving the rock to an ineffective rusher in Mendenhall, who needs to have his role reduced to short-yardage carries.
3. Michael Floyd fulfilling his destiny…alright, I’ll cut the hyperbole
Coming into the season, Michael Floyd looked poised for a breakout year. The Notre Dame product was touted in the offseason of his rookie year, but the promising training camp didn’t manifest itself in regular season statistics. However, the talk on Floyd rose with the hiring of Bruce Arians and the addition of Carson Palmer, as the pieces were in motion for a pass-happy, vertical offense. That sort of change would benefit Floyd more than anyone else, and it was only a matter of time before he separated himself from chain-moving slot/Z wideout Andre Roberts.
After this game, it’s safe to say that the transition is complete, and Michael Floyd is making good on the offseason hype (unlike TE Rob Housler who was held catchless and has not banked on offseason hype for two straight years now). He led the Cardinals with five receptions for 61 yards on seven targets yesterday, and he was a real saving grace for Palmer.
4. Good adjustment on the TE
The Arizona Cardinals were absolutely drubbed by two talented TEs in Jimmy Graham and Jared Cook this season, and I wrote on Sunday morning about how Greg Olsen was next in line. The Panthers love throwing it to Olsen, and he is clearly the No. 2 target for Cam Newton. At first, I looked like a genius after Olsen tore up the Cardinals defense in the first half, and I think my prediction still looks good. Why? Well, he did haul in five passes for 79 yards on just six targets, and those are real nice numbers, especially considering just how horrifically bad Cam Newton played.
However, the Cardinals defense made the right adjustments in order to prevent Greg Olsen from having a “monster” game. They shut him down in the second half, and they deserve a “plus” from me for doing that. Well-coached teams are eventually able to make in-game corrections to shore up a weak spot, and the Cardinals did a really nice job of buckling down on Olsen.
5. Daryl Washington is a friggin’ beast
So how could I write this article without even mentioning Daryl Washington? The man is as talented of an inside linebacker as you’ll find in the game today, and his ability to blitz up the middle and disrupt the opponent’s passing attack in that regard is just intense. Washington is a predator who smells blood, jumps on it, and makes a big play. Big plays? He made countless big plays. The star ILB picked off a pass, led the team with nine tackles, recorded two sacks, and he added another tackle for loss.
That kind of a game definitely falls into the beastly category, and Daryl Washington provided the Arizona Cardinals exactly the kind of spark they were looking for coming into the game. Players who are as active, aggressive, and talented as Washington bring a real edge to a defense, and he is such a catalyst for the Cardinals defense (yeah, I know, I’ve described Brandon Spikes like this too). Bruce Arians stated that they really needed Washington to perform at a high level in his first game off of a suspension, and he undoubtedly did an amazing job.