Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer discusses a play with coach Bruce Arians and quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens at a recent OTA.
This is the time of year when Carson Palmer plays pretend.
Perhaps that's not the perfect way to phrase it – coach Bruce Arians calls it "experimenting" – but the Cardinals quarterback doesn't necessarily execute a pass play during the current offseason work as it's designed.
It's a function of offseason limitations to football, and a quest to get better when those limitations end.
Cornerbacks can't use press coverage right now. The offense (and Palmer's reads) dictates certain throws in off coverage. In games, no team is ever going to play off coverage all the time.
So, "I'm kind of just pretending," Palmer said. "I'll say that guy's 'pressed,' and I'm going to work the other side of the field. I could throw a million hitches. I could throw a hitch every time out here. Even though they're playing Cover Two, they're not allowed to get within a certain number of yards, and we're very strict about rules and making sure we're following all those rules."
Variety isn't the end game in itself. Arians doesn't mind Palmer taking risks in OTAs or minicamp because this is precisely the time the quarterback is supposed to be taking such risks.
"He went back into coverages to see if he could make some throws and that's what you want out of your quarterback," Arians said. "You have to find out, 'Can I make these throws in these windows?' Not just always take the guy who is wide-ass open. I really like that about that about him."
A year ago, Palmer was busy just trying to get totally healthy – he couldn't do 11-on-11 work most of OTAs as he rehabbed from his 2014 ACL tear.
His knee no longer an issue, Palmer came into the offseason work anxious to tinker with details like run-game checks and his footwork. Earlier in OTAs he noted how he had attempted to combine certain drops with certain routes to see if they meshed (they did not).
Trial and error has become an important part of his prep for later. Sometimes, that leads to a mistake or an interception – issues that don't hurt a quarterback or team this time of year.
"A lot of it, I come back and go, 'Man, that's why I don't like that, or why I shouldn't do that,' " Palmer said. "It's good reinforcement."
Palmer doesn't like making mistakes in the first place, even though it is the offseason. But he called it "just another challenge" – one of many he already has taken on for 2016.
"The more things you have on your plate at the line of scrimmage, the better," Palmer said. "Then you get to games and you eliminate 60 percent of those things. It's a good mental exercise to go through. It's good preparation."
Palmer, who had 35 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions during his MVP-worthy season last year, has already proven to Arians he's pretty effective in the offense already.
At one point, Arians was asked if Palmer can make the throws he's been trying. Arians chuckled.
"There aren't too many he can't," Arians said.
The Cardinals take part in Wednesday's OTA