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.