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Counting On Carson Palmer-to-Larry Fitzgerald

Quarterback looking for rhythm with all receivers but rapport with Pro Bowler crucial


Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald gets ready to break for a pass from quarterback Carson Palmer Tuesday during the first OTA.

Dozens of passes have been completed so far from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald.

Many have come "against air" during Phase II work when defenses aren't allowed, or the early drills in a minicamp practice. Some have featured a defensive back, both in the minicamp and, beginning Tuesday, with the start of the offseason's organized team activities.

Palmer-to-Fitz is only one component of the Cardinals' offense. Arguably, it is the most important. Coach Bruce Arians needs his passing game to work, but a rapport between the starting quarterbacks and the star wide receiver – the best player on the offense – can only help the process.

Even Fitzgerald will acknowledge that.

"It does instill confidence knowing the leader of your offense is into it and wants to see everyone play at a high level," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald was talking about Palmer but he could have been talking about himself, since he remains the leader of the offense even with Palmer's

lengthy résumé. Analysis right now will be rare from the Pro Bowl wide receiver. The last thing Fitzgerald wants to do is rehash the recent past, and he'd rather not get verbose with what is to come, either.

Palmer said Fitzgerald has been "exactly what I expected" after seeing his performances on video.

"He's working as hard in practice as he was in games," Palmer said. "He's a perfectionist, he wants to do things right every single times. He and I will get along great because I am the same way."

The passing offense sputtered a few times Tuesday. Arians didn't flinch, knowing he is moving players around – Fitzgerald is getting some time in the slot, for instance – all the while his group tries to learn a new system.

A couple of times, the defense made interceptions, and Arians believed it was in part because of the learning curve.

"It takes time," Arians said.

Palmer has been saying the same over and over. His experience has shown through his perspective, and like Fitzgerald, he isn't about to make any grand pronouncements. He praised Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts Tuesday, and the Cardinals will be in good shape if Palmer and Floyd – last year's No. 1 pick -- can also come together.

Floyd has looked like a different player this offseason and has embraced Palmer's leadership, listening to him "telling me how he likes to do things and making sure I'm in the right place at the right time."

Said Fitzgerald, "(Carson) has been great to be around and has a wealth of football knowledge. He has played at a high level for a long time and it is a pleasure to be working with a player of his caliber."

Certainly Palmer is more proven in the passing game than any quarterback the Cardinals have had since Kurt Warner. Philosophically, he can't be any better of a match with Arians, who has made no secret of his desire to chuck it downfield.

"You can run the ball and play defense but you have to be able to throw the ball vertically to win," Palmer said. "You don't throw the ball vertically unless you have really good rhythm and timing. We'll get there."

The Cardinals need it to start with Fitz. His 71 catches was low last season but not as low as his 798 yards, which was more than 600 fewer yards than the season before. His numbers figure to jump with Palmer behind center, relieving some of the massive frustration Fitzgerald endured in 2012.  

For both the production and the mental health of the offense, Palmer-to-Fitz needs to click.

"It's of the utmost importance to be on the same page with Larry, but it's of the utmost importance to be on the same page with every one of those guys because the ball can't always go to him," Palmer said. "I know that's not what he wants to hear, but that's the truth.

"There will be teams that key on him and there will be games where he doesn't have as many catches as other games. It's that much more important I have that rhythm and timing down with Michael and Andre and whoever that third and fourth guy is going to be."

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