Cleat Geeks

Cardinals Try to Get Back to .500 With Stanton at the Helm

The Arizona Cardinals season took another major hit when quarterback Carson Palmer broke his non-throwing arm during the second quarter of a 33-0 beatdown at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7. That was the first time since 2012 that the Cardinals offense was shutout. The 33 point loss is the largest margin of defeat in head coach Bruce Arians’ tenure.

The Cardinals three victories on the season are against teams with a cumulative record of 4-19. The four losses that the Cards have endured are against teams with a combined 19-10 record. It’s safe to say there’s not a lot of optimism in the desert these days.

After opening the 2017 season with a loss against Detroit, Arizona has flip-flopped wins and losses every week coming into todays match-up with the winless San Francisco 49ers. Drew Stanton – who completed only five of his fourteen passing attempts for 62 yards and an interception after replacing Palmer in week 7 – will be given the task of keeping that win/loss trend going as it would mean the Cardinals reached the .500 mark for the fourth time this season.

Carson Palmer only lasted seven games but it had to of been one of the 37-year-old’s longest seasons, as he as was repeatedly bludgeoned like a piñata behind an offensive line that yielded sacks on 7.6% of all drop back passes. That is highest percentage of sacks in any season in which Palmer played in at least five games. Entering that game Carson was averaging a career high 309 passing yards per game while enduring a NFL high 124 total pressures. Prior to his injury, Palmer was on the field for every offensive snap of the season for the Cardinals.

Palmer was put on injured reserve and won’t be eligible to return until the last week of the season (once on IR the player has to miss a minimum of eight games to be eligible to return).

Carson’s record as a Cardinal is 38-21-1. Arizona’s record the previous three seasons before Palmer’s arrival was 18-30.

Running back David Johnson and KR/RB T.J. Logan were initially thought to be the two players that would be coming off the IR (only two IR players per team are eligible to return), but suddenly it sounds like both might be a long shot:

If this is last we see of Carson Palmer as an Arizona Cardinal it’s a damn shame it ended the way it did. Considering he’s been sacked 87 times since the start of the 2015 season, nobody would blame him if he did hang ’em up after this season. If it is his last, Palmer’s time as a Cardinal should be celebrated, not bashed. In 2015, Carson Palmer led the Cards to the most wins in franchise history (13) and led the team to their second NFC Championship game since the franchises relocation to Arizonal in 1988. While Palmer had a horrific NFC Championship game in the loss to the Carolina Panthers, he was far from the only one as the Panthers put up a 49 spot against us. Carson’s record as a Cardinal is 38-21-1. Arizona’s record the previous three seasons before Palmer’s arrival was 18-30. Carson was a more productive Cardinal than anyone could’ve hoped for. Even when he was getting his ass handed to him due to an inferior offensive line never once did he call out any of his teammates.

Enter 33-year-old Drew Stanton. While the vibe by Cardinal fans seems to be in favor of Blaine Gabbert replacing Palmer as the starting QB, Arians made the obvious call of going with Drew instead. This is Stanton’s 6th straight season in Bruce Arians’ offense (2012-Indy; ’13-’17-ARI) and has gone 6-3 in 9 starts as the Cardinals starting QB. Blaine Gabbert is 9-31 in 40 career games. With the Cardinals playing in Thursday nights game this upcoming week, it would seem that no matter what happens today Stanton will more than likely start Thursday night against the division rival Seattle Seahawks.

Even though he has only won 29% of his starts, Blaine Gabbert, who just turned 29 last month, has 38 career touchdowns to go along with 37 interceptions. Drew has a career 14 TD/19 INT ratio. Gabbert also has a better career completion percentage than Stanton, 56.0% to 52.7%. This preseason, Gabbert completed 62% of his passes even though he ended up getting sacked nine times. Blaine has also shown to be the more mobile of the two qb’s, as he has 549 yards on the ground in 43 career games. Stanton has 217 rushing yards in 34 career games. This is currently Gabbert’s seventh different offensive coordinator in what is now his seventh NFL season. With an offensive line on pace to give up 50 sacks on the season, Gabbert is always a play away. He is currently not under contract for next season.

Even though todays game pins the Cardinals against the lowly 0-8 49ers who are led by C.J. Beathard, whose currently the second worst eligible qb in the league with a grade of 47.4, according to Pro Football Focus. To go along with the second worst ranked QB the 49ers also will be featuring the second worst ranked eligible running back in Carlos Hyde (55 out of 56 RB’s). Even though Hyde has already set a career high in receptions with 31, he’s only averaging 56 rushing yards per game which is 20 yards less than last year. It’s tough to run when opposing defenses have zero belief that the other teams QB can beat them, which gives them the ability to put all their focus on stopping the run.

Here are the PFF grades for all of the projected starters when the Cardinals are on defense:

Larry Fitzgerald was targeted only three time last game against the Rams. He caught all three of those passes in Week 7 and has now caught 13 of the last 14 balls that were thrown in his direction.

Even though Arians has repeatedly said that nothing changes with the offense when Drew has been asked to fill in for Palmer, the number of pass plays being called during those games begs to differ. In nine starts as an Arizona Cardinal, Stanton has attempted more than 33 passes just once and never more than 39 attempts in one game. Prior to Week 7’s game against the Rams, Carson Palmer attempted at least 40 passes in all but two games this season.

As long as Stanton can avoid turning the ball over today in conjunction with feeding RB Adrian Peterson the ball and targeting Larry Fitzgerald in the passing game the Cardinals should be able to move the ball just enough to get past the 49ers.

Larry Fitzgerald was targeted only three time last game against the Rams. He caught all three of those passes in Week 7 and has now caught 13 of the last 14 balls that were thrown in his direction. Since Week 3, Larry Legend has caught 78.2% of his targets. His highest catch percentage season was in 2015 when he caught 75.2% of his 145 targets.

While Adrian Peterson ran the ball only 11 times for 21 yards in his second game as a Cardinal, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said the team needs to “Feed the beast” in regards to Peterson. The perfect box score at the end of todays game would have Peterson with just as many rushing attempts as Drew Stanton has passing attempts. The 49ers are giving up the fourth worst rushing yards per game, at 131.8. Ten years ago yesterday, Adrian Peterson broke the NFL rushing record with 296 yards. Feed the man.

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