First Down, Fourth Down: Carson Palmer re-energizes Arizona’s offense
To fix this situation, new GM Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians signed veteran Carson Palmer to a three-year, $26 million contract in April. The veteran quarterback’s effectiveness showed immediately. Palmer played in the first three series of Arizona’s 17-0 win over the Green Bay Packers and completed four of six attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown. The stats aren’t mind-blowing, but Palmer was able to open up Arians’ passing game and give Cards fans reason to believe that the new offense will work.
On his first play from scrimmage with his new team, Palmer hit second-year receiver Michael Floyd 18 yards downfield out of a bunch right formation. Two plays later, he threw a deep, accurate pass to Andre Roberts that was catchable, but Roberts couldn’t quite bring it in. He hit Larry Fitzgerald for two receptions on the next drive, which started at his own 1-yard line, and ended his day on the next drive by throwing a beautiful deep pass to Roberts for a 38-yard touchdown. It was a nice start, but Palmer wants more.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he said after the game. “You want to be perfect. When you only get so many opportunities, when you don’t get the second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter, halftime adjustments, you only get 10, 12 plays, you want every one to be perfect. It’s not only going to be that way. It was just good to be back and see some of the things we’ve been working on come to fruition.”
For the first time in a long time, Cards fans can believe in their quarterback.
First Down: New England’s running game.
Your NFL rushing leaders with just a couple games left in the first full week of the preseason? The Patriots have the top two so far. LeGarrette Blount racked up 101 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, and made highlight shows across the nation with a 51-yard scoring run. It wasn’t a pretty run, but Blount got home despite one of the slowest turns out of trouble imaginable. Stevan Ridley gained 92 yards and scored a touchdown on eight carries, and the Pats rolled over the Philadelphia Eagles for 248 rushing yards in a 31-22 win. With all the talk about Tom Brady’s new targets, maybe Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are switching to smash-mouth football.
Fourth Down: The continuation of Tim Tebow, NFL Quarterback.
Let’s put this as bluntly as possible. Tim Tebow is not a starting-caliber NFL quarterback, no matter how much fairy dust then-Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy blessed him with when Tebow came off the bench to make a few legitimate plays in the 2011 season. Tebow spent a disastrous 2012 season with the Jets, who rarely used him, and this allowed those who perpetuate the Tebow cottage industry to insist that the young man just needs the right home.
Well, if New England isn’t the right home for a developmental quarterback, where would that be? In his first action for his third NFL team, Tebow completed four passes in 12 attempts for 55 yards, no touchdowns, and no picks. If you subtract the 23 yards he lost on three sacks, that’s 1.8 net yards per attempt. Tebow looked as mechanically lost as he has ever been – his delivery is still too long, and he was sailing balls all over the place. It’s cute in the preseason, we suppose, but Tebow should be an H-back, or some other kind of goal-line rushing threat, when the games really count.
First Down: Minnesota Vikings WR Cordarelle Patterson.
It didn’t take long for the Vikings’ first-round draft pick to prove that he may have what it takes to replace Percy Harvin as the team’s multi-faceted game-breaker. In the first play against the Houston Texans, Patterson returned the opening kickoff 50 yards and nearly broke it for a touchdown. He then caught four passes on eight targets for 54 yards, and would have had a bigger day if backup quarterback Matt Cassel hadn’t been a bit jittery to start. Patterson is a smooth downfield strider with strength to catch contested passes, and he’s a threat from just about everywhere. The rookie burner is definitely a player to watch this season.
Fourth Down: Dallas’ first-team red zone offense.
Jerry Jones had better hope that the “it’s just preseason” meme applies to his high-priced offense, because it didn’t look too good in the red zone on Friday night against the Raiders. Dallas started its first drive at the Oakland 16-yard line after Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn fumbled, but Jason Witten was called for holding on a 10-yard run by DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo couldn’t connect with Murray on the next play, and Romo was sacked on third down. The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal. The Cowboys started their second drive at their own 17, but fell apart near Oakland’s goal line again. A swing pass to Murray from the Oakland 19 on third-and-12 netted 11 yards, and head coach Jason Garrett opted for another field goal call. It was blocked.
“It was good,” Romo said after the game. “We had couple penalties that put us in a hole that cost us some points, I think. That is something that we are going to correct real fast. You just can’t overcome that stuff in the red zone. Other than that, I thought the guys did a really good job and it’s been going just how it was in training camp. It’s been good.”
Dallas was not very efficient in the red zone last season, so there should be concern.
First Down: Green Bay Packers LT David Bakhtiari.
We recently wrote about Bakhtiari, the fourth-round rookie from Colorado who is projected to be the Packers’ starting left tackle after Bryan Bulaga was lost for the year with a torn ACL. In his first NFL action against Arizona’s defense, the rookie looked solid, and the Cardinals’ first-team front seven is no joke. Bakhtiari wasn’t always agile, but he kept his base and got wide when he needed to around the edge. He also showed good speed to the second level. It seems that after years of trying to find their left tackle, the Packers may have stumbled into the right guy.
Step one for any young left tackle is to keep the franchise quarterback happy, and it’s so far, so good in that regard.
“I didn’t get touched tonight,” Aaron Rodgers said of his pass protection after playing one series against the Cards. “We had a few dropbacks, I think five attempts, so I’m sure he was pretty good over there. It’s nice when you’re not worried about him, and tonight I wasn’t worried about him. He’s a confident kid. I think he’s got a bright future for us. For him, it’s about experience and going against good pass rushers, and next week will be a good challenge with those guys they have in St. Louis.”
Yes, the Rams will be a formidable challenge for Bakhtiari, but he seems up to whatever the NFL throws at him.
Fourth Down: Jacksonville Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon.
Blackmon didn’t play against the Miami Dolphins – he’s recovering from a groin injury and is on the Physically Unable to Perform list – but that didn’t stop him from creating a spectacle. As first reported by Mark Long of the Associated Press, the second-year receiver got into a jawing match with Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll. After that, Jags defensive end Jason Babin apparently told Blackmon to shut up, because Blackmon will not even play the first four games of the regular season due to a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. Blackmon turned his ire on Babin, and the receiver had to be escorted off the field. He returned later in the game and “hugged it out” with head coach Gus Bradley.
“You know how it is in the preseason,” Bradley said later. “Sometimes a player talks to the sideline. It started off as just banter and I just addressed it. I turned to him and said, ‘There’s no place [for that]. I’d rather you use your energy to encourage our guys and not get caught in that.’
Bradley said that he was not aware of the Blackmon-Babin flap. It’s too early to call Blackmon a bust, but given that the Jags traded up to get him with the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, and that he tends to make more news off the field than on it? He’s heading in that direction.