Quarterback Carson Palmer hands off to running back Andre Ellington Sunday.
Carson Palmer is throwing less of late, and not coincidentally, his numbers are getting better.
The Cardinals aren't built to have a quarterback who slings the ball around 40 times per game. The defense is the team's biggest strength, and the emergence of Andre Ellington in the running game has given the offense balance.
After attempting 35 or more passes in six of the team's first seven games, Palmer's averaged just 25 over the past two. He's posted passer ratings of 116.0 against the Falcons
and 93.4 against Texans -- each significantly better than his season average of 74.5 -- and Arizona has won both games.
"When you have to throw it 45 times, it's tough," coach Bruce Arians said. "Right now we've been able to stay two-dimensional. We're in reach in ballgames where we can maintain the running game, and the running game is finally coming around where it's effective enough to use it."
Palmer had a nice debut against the Rams but had a five-game stretch starting with the Saints in Week 3 when he threw 11 interceptions to only five touchdowns. He said the improved running game has been key to the turnaround, as has his increased comfort within the offense in his first year with Arians.
"Really the last month, after the bye week and after these last couple of games, we've done a better job," Palmer said. "We have to continue to improve, and I'll continue to improve. I think we're starting to kind of heat up, I guess you could say, on offense."
Palmer hit on 66 percent of his passes the past two games, and the better the running game performs, the easier it is on him.
"You get the long play-action stuff," Palmer said. "We need to continue to run the ball to get defenses to really come down and really want to stop the run, because that opens up a lot of things down the field."
ABRAHAM ADDS A SACK BUT MISSES PRACTICE
Linebacker John Abraham's Wednesday started positively, as he was credited with a third sack in Sunday's win over the Texans. However, he sat out practice with a bad hamstring. If he can't play or is limited against the Jaguars, it will take some bite out of a linebackers group which has been dominant recently.
Abraham has been a terror the past three games, compiling six sacks and three forced fumbles after getting shut out in both categories through the first six contests. The 14-year veteran is the NFL's active leader in both sacks and forced fumbles, and Arians doesn't see the 35-year-old slowing down any time soon.
"Guys who can rush the passer never lose that knack," Arians said.
OPPORTUNITIES IN STORE IF FLOYD SITS
Wide receiver Michael Floyd missed practice and his availability for Sunday's game against Jacksonville seems to be in doubt. Floyd caught two passes for 31 yards in the first quarter against Houston before leaving with an AC sprain in his right shoulder.
Andre Roberts stepped up in his place with a team-high 72 receiving yards and a score. If Floyd can't play, Roberts and Jaron Brown figure to get more opportunities. Brown had three catches for 30 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks on Oct. 17 but has otherwise had a quiet rookie season.
"I want to get (Floyd) back as soon as possible, obviously, but I'm always looking forward to play anytime," Brown said. "You've just always got to be prepared."
Wide receiver Brittan Golden (hamstring) and linebacker Dontay Moch (illness) did not practice, while Roberts (knee) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) were both limited.
For Jacksonville, running back Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) was among a group of Jaguars who didn't practice Wednesday. The others were defensive end Jason Babin (not injury related), linebacker Paul Posluszny (concussion), wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion), defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (ankle) and center Brad Meester (not injury related).
Jaguars players limited in practice were wide receiver Cecil Shorts (groin), defensive end Tyson Alualu (elbow), defensive end Andre Branch (neck), wide receiver Mike Brown (ankle), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder), tight end Danny Noble (hamstring), guard Will Rackley (concussion) and wide receiver Stephen Williams (Achilles).
PALMER AND THE COP 'STACHE
As Palmer's session with the media came to a close, attention turned to his recent facial hair addition.
He was sporting a Fu Manchu moustache, which he called his 'cop 'stache.' Palmer said the team's quarterbacks and some other players are participating in 'Movember', the month-long, moustache-growing event designed to raise awareness for men's health issues. (Palmer can be seen in the video above).
As for growing it out the rest of the year? Palmer wouldn't make that commitment.
"We've got a long season to go so I don't know how long I can get away with this," he said.