Taking those shots down the field

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2013 – 9:54 am

The day Bruce Arians was introduced as the head coach of the Cardinals, he talked about how he wanted to take about six shots downfield per game. Arians was about getting chunk yardage, and keeping defenses honest with such plays.

But the plays have to work to be effective. Arians knows they haven’t been nearly effective enough. Asked if he thought the Cards were getting about 50 percent of those plays, Arians scoffed. “We’re nowhere near 50 percent,” Arians said. “We’re probably down around 20 (percent.)”

According to, the Cardinals and quarterback Carson Palmer have thrown 22 passes this season of at least 20 yards in the air — an average of 4.4 tries per game. But Palmer has only been able to complete five of them, or an average of one a game. Two of those — a 24-yard TD to Larry Fitzgerald in St. Louis and the 36-yard TD pass to running back Andre Ellington against Detroit — have gone for scores. (UPDATE: PFF gave Palmer a third TD in this situation: The 13-yard TD pass to Fitz in Tampa. PFF counts all passes that cover 20 yards and do not stop at the goal line — so in charting that Fitz was seven yards deep in the end zone when he caught the ball, that qualified as a 20-yard-in-the-air pass.)

Three of Palmer’s at-least-20-yarders-in-the-air have been intercepted. Palmer is tied for 10th on the league in deep attempts, but he’s tied for 20th in completions. The 139 yards Palmer has on those throws isn’t a ton either. By contrast, Aaron Rodgers (505 yards) and Jets rookie Geno Smith (500) are at the top of the list, although both have 14 completions already of passes of at least 20 yards in the air. Rodgers, you can understand. Smith is surprising, just like it is surprising to see Detroit’s Matthew Stafford behind Palmer in most of these categories.

Obviously, Arians would like to get more from those kinds of passes. Palmer said yesterday he isn’t going to take chances on the jump balls anymore, like the one intercepted in front of Michael Floyd against Carolina (below). In fact, Palmer talked a lot about taking what the defense will give him, which sounds a lot like taking fewer chances down the field. Arians said he wants Palmer to walk the fine line between being smart and being aggressive.

It’s funny, because this has been a topic with the Cardinals much of the past few years. In Kurt Warner’s final season, there was a bunch of talk of how the Cards didn’t throw deep enough (and Warner’s 37 such attempts were the fewest of any qualifying QB that season.) Even in 2011, when Fitz set his career-high with 17.6 yards per reception, it wasn’t because John Skelton was throwing a ton of 20-yard-in-the-air passes. We’ll see if the Cards can adjust the offense to be more what Arians had hoped, or if various issues — including the pass protection — will force a change in thinking.


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20 Responses to “Taking those shots down the field”

  1. By georgiebird on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    Cards need play makers on offense. BA brought in Brittan Golden because he hopes Golden is a playmaker.
    Forget the long passes. Throwing long is a dumb idea with an average OL, slow receivers and an immobile QB. What we need are shorter passes where the receivers can get some YOC.
    Also, until the Cardinals can cultivate a TE who will successfully run criss-cross routes, the passing game will always be second rate.

  2. By JosEPh on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    When Carson and the Coaches realize how ineffective the 7 step drop back is for CP and how effective the 3 and 5 step are, then the passing game will perk up. The 7 step drop back puts too much pressure on the O-line because it requires they keep the defense off of CP for 5+ secs. Our O-line isn’t up to that yet. A few more well placed swing pass to Ellington will help the passing stats. And give more “love” to TE Dray.

    CP must also get his reads done faster. Taking too long there to. Correct these 2 problems and CP’s stats will get a boost.

  3. By hummer53 on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    If Carson would have just been able to hit that one wheel route to Ellington late in game at St. Louis, there wouldn’t be as much angst about his performance around here. 4-1 would look pretty dang good all things considered. That’s how close the NFL is to success and failure.

  4. By George on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply


    I disagree with not going long. BA needs to keep calling those plays. I believe Roberts and Floyd have enough speed and I always like the Cards chances when Fitz is one on one. Palmer should not force the ball. If the deep route is not open, Palmer should check down or throw it away. He cannot afford to throw interceptions. But, you do not abandon the opportunity to make plays down the field.

  5. By Chuck 1 on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply


    Very informative (I almost wrote “GREAT”, but then remembered that I had wrote earlier that “GREAT” is vastly overused) article chock full of useful data.

    I agree with georgiebird; (paraphrasing) take what the defense gives you and we need a TE who can lessen the coverage on the other receivers.

  6. By vsancards on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    The issue with always keeping it short is the defense will then begin to sit on routes not worried about the deep ball. An offense needs to be able to execute on deep balls in order for a defense to feel threatened. That will then open it up underneath.

    A good example of that is when Patrick Peterson comes into the game. Often two or three defenders go deep and Palmer has successfully checked down to running backs for 7-10 yard gains.

    However if we continue to never throw to Peterson, defenses will just sit on the short stuff and Palmer will have no where to go, force it, or get sacked.

    I hope we can start to execute on some of these deep throws and soon. It won’t be easy these next two weeks.

  7. By John m on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    It’s kind of sad that palmer and housler hasn’t been on the same page since housler got back from being injured. It would’ve helped open up the field more, especially with houslers speed. I really think housler has the potential to become a high ranked te ala graham. Maybe they should try letting him seam down the middle of the field on play actions.

  8. By Dieselbomb on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    The 3- and 5-Step drops will work. But we also need to incorporate ‘Flood’ plays on both Rushing and Passing downs to open up the Defense. Using Flood-type plays tire the opposing D as well as make them respect the Oline more (because they don’t have to just stand there and push back against the Dive plays – they have to cover the field laterally). We are trying to force the Center-Guard (A Gap) and the Guard-Tackle (B Gap) runs when no one on the team is a true Power Runner. Mendenhall = 17 carries for 43 yards against the Panthers (which has been close to his usual to this point). I’ve seen enough. Thank you R. Mendenhall, but we don’t have anything to offer you; and you aren’t putting across the results we need. Best wishes in your future endeavors. Without a Rusher who can generate 85 to 105 yards per game the Defense will slowly start to ignore that aspect of our game and stifle the pass. Carson Palmer will do much better with Flood plays because that will free the little Rushing Game we actually DO have right now. Then the 3- and 5-Step drops will be effective (because the D won’t know if he’s going to give it to the RB on a Delay. Ellington is doing well, and much of his ground gains have been running outside. I’m fine with that, and actually prefer making the D work on every play. Ellington is a great find. By the way – Where’s Ryan Williams? What’s up with that? Our biggest problem, however, is Carson Palmer. Put Drew Stanton in there. If you do the same thing all the time, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. We’re getting a bunch of Picks from CPalmer. We’re bound to get more if he’s in the game. A Quarter of the season is already gone.

  9. By ES on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    I think a stagnant offense is worth than a porous defense. Nobody wants to see 3 and outs all day. Coach Arians really needs to do some adjusting to his game plan. Move the chains and stop thinking about how many deep balls you need to throw.

  10. By clssylssy on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    I have to agree with Georgiebird on this one too. So far, Carson has not been effective in throwing the long passes and Floyd has not been effective in getting the necessary chemistry to connect in the way Fitz can. Coach BA needs to realize he is in Arizona and this is not Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning nor is he going to be able to force his “desires” on this team; horse of a different color! Go with the strengths we have and create plays that work in this setting. We now have a solid run game, a killer defense and special teams. There is a lot of talent on the offense that could be better utilized. Coach Arians is suppose to be an offensive genius but Palmer is targeting who he’s told by play caller Arians and it would seem that there needs to be a change when something is not working. I keep hearing how much BA likes to use multiple TEs but so far, we haven’t seen much there either except from Dray, and I place these weaknesses on Keim/Arians whose job it is to know what the team needs and then to go out and get players who can do the job. These are the Cards dealt, now let’s see how good we are at learning from our mistakes and making adjustments! GO CARDS!

  11. By JohnL on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    If passer protection can give Palmer 4 seconds, I think our problems will be well on their way to being solved.

  12. By roben10 on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    I think we have a new coaching staff, new and very complex offensive playbook, and a QB that is on a different page with everyone of his receivers. I’ll still give the offense a little break until after our bye week. I think Palmer saying he isn’t going to give jump balls anymore is a mistake. Fitz, when healthy, is second to megatron in coming down with those and Floyd has shown that he is also capable with those. Floyd should have knocked that ball down last week but Palmer should know that you shouldn’t under-throw the receiver that much. To me that looked more like Palmers fault than Floyds.

  13. By andystandsup on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    Palmer’s Yards Per Attempt this season is less than the Viking’s Christian Ponder.

    That is all.

  14. By Bay Area Bad Boy on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    I’ve been saying it for weeks, Bench Palmer. Never wanted him in Arizona in the first place. But we are 3-2 and everyone is unhappy because the offense looks like crap. The two biggest mistakes BA and Keim made were acquiring Mendenhall and Palmer. I give them props for trying to make change, but their assessment for talent in these two position were brutally wrong. The O-line is not that bad. They are not great by no means, but they are good enough to get the job done. Palmer and Mendenhall are our handicaps. Maybe after the season is over and we have the 4th pick in the draft, BA and Keim will realize their muck up. You don’t let Williams even suit up (because he doesn’t play special teams). Does anyone see Mendenhall playing special teams????? NO. So that a scape goat excuse. You have Stanton who knows the offense better than Palmer and looked better than Palmer in the preseason and he sits the bench. BA is not as bad as Whiz, but his loyalty to players that can’t perform seems a lot like Whiz. Just frustrating. But I will forgive everyone if we just beat the niners. At least for one week.

  15. By jasonc on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    Bay Area Bad Boy-

    The reason you don’t activate Williams for not playing special teams is BECAUSE Mendenhall doesn’t play special teams. It’s a numbers game and having a back up running back who doesn’t contribute in the special teams game is a liability.

    I get your frustration with Carson, but you admit that you never wanted him here in the desert, so your feelings were already negative about him. We are 3-2 in spite of the turnovers and we might have been 4-1 if our “not that bad” line wouldn’t have given up the strip sack.\

    I agree he needs to play better, but benching him isn’t the answer.

  16. By ored on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    if our defense continues keeping us in games,maybe,just maybe the offense wakes up,it’s not any one players fault,they take turns making mistakes,wrong routes,missed timing,penalties,over/under thrown passes,fumbles,whatever,when enough of these happen in a game,the offense struggles.

  17. By stevenanimator on Oct 10, 2013 | Reply

    What I find confusing is that Carson Palmer’s numbers in Oakland were better last year, and that was supposedly with a weak O-line and no one to really pass to. So if the Cards are an upgrade for him as a QB, why aren’t the numbers reflecting that? I don’t know the answers, but I’d be looking at what the Raiders Offense was doing last season compared to what the Cards Offense is trying to do.

  18. By monzz on Oct 11, 2013 | Reply

    Now we are hearing that BA has brought in this complex offense that nobody understands! If anyone remembers Whiz N Punt had a complex offense that no one understood. I am seeing the similarities between the two coaches. What is it with mendehall he sucks! Palmer needs to go away and take menenhall with him.

  19. By Eazy E on Oct 11, 2013 | Reply

    I told all of y’all that didn’t believe me about Carson. Now his ”bread and butter” which y’all claim is the deep ball, he ain’t throwing much anymore. He’ll be an even worse QB now because teams will figure out how predictable our offense will be even moreso.

  20. By CORMAC on Oct 12, 2013 | Reply

    PALMER is a bad ass. The haters wouldn’t know a good quarterback if he hit them in the head with a football.

    People said the exact same kind of stuff about Warner,….. ya pretty stupid …

    Its a first year offense, that has scored points and moved the ball. Not pretty, but has done the job. I certainly see the promise and potential of a GREAT offense. Ya, me may limp along this year, but down the stretch they will catch fire.

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