'Real quarterback' excites Cardinals' Campbell

Calais Campbell likes Cardinals' chances to win NFC West with 'real quarterback.'

Remember football? Yes? The Cardinals report to camp in just 10 days -- crazy, right? -- and while last year went (ahem) poorly, there's a cliche about how every team is a contender in training camp.

True, it's just a cliche, and the Niners and the Seahawks are really good and so on and so forth, but Calais Campbell is telling everybody that yes, seriously, the Cardinals will contend in the NFC West. Why? What's different this year?

As he told CBS Sports in an extensive interview over the weekend, “We have a quarterback."

That would be Carson Palmer, of course, acquired in a trade with the Raiders after nine seasons (featuring varying degrees of statistical success) in Cincinnati and Oakland.

Regardless of your opinion about Palmer's age or lack of wins, one thing that's almost certain is that, for the Cardinals, it really can't get any worse. We'll spare you a recap of last year's utter debacle at quarterback following Kevin Kolb's season-ending injuries, but here's a telling stat: Over the last three years (since Kurt Warner's retirement), the Cards have twice finished 31st -- out of 32 teams in the league -- in scoring. In 2011, they finished 19th, which comparatively makes them the equivalent of the 2008 Patriots but didn't even make them average relative to the rest of the league that year.

So the Cardinals offense has ranged only from bad to flat-out awful over the past three years. And even last year, the Cards lost five games in which the opponent was held to 23 points or fewer. The distinction between 5-11 and 10-6 isn't a huge one in the NFL.

None of this is new information for Campbell.

“I think it's very likely we can win the division, yes," he tells Freeman. "I respect every opponent in our division. Every one. But I think of it this way: We were able to hang in a bunch of our division games without a real quarterback.

“I don't want to disrespect anyone, but now we have a real quarterback to go with a good defense. When we play with a lead, we're hard to beat. This is the first time in years that we have an offense that matches our defense.”

So he doesn't want to disrespect anyone, but he does want it to be clear that the Cardinals' quarterback play has been so awful that he can't even consider it "real" quarterback play. Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer, Derek Anderson and Max Hall might disagree, but an opinion is an opinion.

Whether Palmer is a real quarterback (based on Campbell's unstated definition) remains to be seen, but hey, it's summer, which means optimism is welcome.

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