Cards’ improvements could be hard to notice in stacked NFC West

July 30,

2013


GLENDALE,

Ariz. – Will Carson Palmer’s presence equate to more wins for

the Cardinals? Is it too much to expect San Francisco’s Colin

Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson to sustain their level of play?

Even if the Cards improve, will we know it in the rugged NFC

West?

We sat down

with ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando to get his take on these

questions and a few others on Monday at University of Phoenix

Stadium.

How

do we know that Palmer is an

upgrade?

Sando:

“He’s going to be so much better than what they had that if they’re

competitive at home and win some of those games that were going the

other way, that’s a start. This isn’t Year 3; it’s Year 1 for (coach

Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim). It’s not like you have to get to 10

wins. You just have to feel like this is an improved team, and you’re

not hitting your head against the wall, doing the same old thing, over

and

over.

“Everybody

can do the eyeball test and see Palmer is better, but one of the tools

we have at ESPN is the total

QBR metric. It looks at more than just the simple

quarterback rating. It really examines how a quarterback affects winning

and losing.

The difference between where the

Cardinals played last year and where Palmer played last year is about

three wins over a 16-game season. Three wins doesn’t sound like much,

but it

is.”

Is

it reasonable to expect Wilson and Kaepernick to duplicate last season’s

success?


Sando:

“When you look at both of those teams, they are largely defined by

their running games and their defense. With a guy like (the Colts’)

Andrew Luck, he was really carrying that whole thing. It doesn’t mean

he’s way better than those other two, but he was pulling a heavy sled in

an offense that was vertical down the field. He had Reggie Wayne and

not a whole lot

else.

“Seattle

and San Francisco have elite backs, strong defenses, Seattle’s got a

great home-field advantage and San Francisco still has a pretty good

one, so there are a lot of things helping these guys be good – things

that haven’t existed (in Arizona)

recently.”

Did

Wilson, in particular, surprise

you?


Sando:

“Yeah. They were very high on him in camp, but in the back of my mind

I’m thinking ‘we heard that about Max Hall, too.’ When you look at

Russell Wilson, he’s got huge hands, he has long arms, and he’s a

legitimate athlete who played pro baseball. You just wondered if he’d be

a little gimmicky. There was some of that, but he was a really good

pocket passer, too. He would have been a very high pick if he had been

6-2,

6-3.”

What

about the

Rams?


Sando:

“I think they’re definitely trending up, but they have so many young

players that there are a lot of unknowns. I wouldn’t guarantee their

record will be better than last year (7-8-1), but I think it will be

similar, and I think they’ll be

competitive.

“They’re

counting on (QB) Sam Bradford to be the focal point of that offense.

They don’t have (RB) Steven Jackson any more. I think he can do it. I

think he’s had an historically bad cast around him the last few years

that has held him back, but until he does it, we won’t

know.”

Even

if the Cards are improved, will we know it in a division where two

teams – San Francisco and Seattle – are considered Super Bowl contenders

and the other, St. Louis, went 4-1-1 in the division last

season?

Sando:

“You can’t pick your family members, and these teams are the Cardinals’

NFC West family, for better or for worse. With San Francisco or

Seattle, they both won 11 games last season. If one of them had gone

13-3 or 14-2 last year, I’d say ‘yeah, they’re due for a natural

regression, but I think 10 or 11 wins is a reasonable expectations for

both of those

teams. 

“Picking

a win/loss record for the Cardinals is tough. They were 4-0 last year,

but I don’t think that’s the team they were. I think the team that fired

a coach and was 1-11 was that team. I think they’re going to be a lot

better than that. I think they’ll be more competitive offensively with

Palmer and an improved offensive line. Their backups aren’t guys who

aren’t going to have a job if they’re

cut. 

“But

are they going to be way better than 5-11? I don’t know. There are so

many unanswered questions. There have been so many changes. They’ve made

80-some roster moves since January. What does that mean for Week 1 when

they could be finding their

way?

Also

today on

FOXSportsArizona.com:

Cardinals notebook: The defensive

line is showing versatility and depth and an injury

update.

— Carson Palmer understands the Kurt Warner comparisons, but he

sees vast differences in their comparative

situations.