Running back Andre Ellington with a big gain in the preseason opener against the Chiefs.
Carson Palmer isn't into giving away state secrets, so he won't say why the 57-yard pass play to Andre Ellington in Saturday's preseason opener worked so well.
What's abundantly clear, though, is how in sync they were, a product of a quarterback and a running back working together for the past three years.
"That's just a co
mfort, a confidence play, knowing that he's got an option to do a couple different things on that play," Palmer said. "And to pull off the timing of that play probably doesn't happen in Year One or Year Two of the offense. That's a route I've thrown Andre thousands of times. Maybe 10,000."
When Bruce Arians took over as coach of the Cardinals before the 2013 season, he brought with him an intricate offensive system which challenged players across the board. Perhaps no one had it harder than the quarterbacks, and even being a veteran, Palmer took about half a season to adjust. It's been a steady progression since then, as the Cardinals have compiled a 12-2 record with Palmer at the helm since the midway point of 2013.
Palmer registered the second-highest quarterback rating of his career last season – albeit in only six games because of shoulder and knee injuries – and even as he enters his age 36 season, the expectations are high because of the continuity between him and several of the skill players.
Ellington and starting wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd have been with Palmer since Arians' start, while wideout John Brown and tight end Darren Fells had significant roles last season.
"We've been through it all, the ups and the downs," Ellington said. "This year, we're on the same page now. Carson's back. We have our leader back. When he's out there, the offense is going smooth."
Palmer said the playbook has always been thick, which means there haven't been many added wrinkles as the players adapted to the system. Instead, each call has increasingly been met with nods of approval rather than looks of confusion.
In the N
FL, protection packages, hot reads and blitz pick-ups are a huge part of an offense's success. Palmer is at the point where he can see what a defense is trying to do when it lines up and combat it.
"Right now I feel like we're working on next-level things," said right tackle Bradley Sowell, who has been with Arians for four seasons. "It's been a process over the last three years, but right now we're all pretty comfortable in it. We're (only) trying to fix little problems."
While defensive coordinator Todd Bowles left to take the head coaching job with the Jets last offseason, there haven't been any big changes within the offensive coaching staff in the past three years. That continuity is important, too, as the coaches have learned how to best put their players in a position to succeed.
It couldn't have looked much easier in the first game of the preseason, when the starters were only allowed one drive yet marched 80 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. They will have a chance at a slightly longer encore on Saturday against the Chargers when the first-team offense plays the entire first quarter.
"Everything right now is like clockwork," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "You saw it last week on that first drive. That was pretty amazing. Hopefully we can do it again this weekend."
Images from the 15th practice of camp from University of Phoenix Stadium