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Faith In Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick

Cardinals and Jets' starting quarterbacks aiming to find last year's magic

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Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (left) and Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer are trying to find a groove after early struggles.


The 30-something quarterback didn't want 2016 to start like this – not after a career year which led to such high expectations in the first place.

But here he is, with a losing record and a fanbase waiting impatiently for improvement.

Check that. Here they are.

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has yet to hit the lofty heights he reached in 2015, and a passing game turnaround is imperative for the team to regain its footing as a projected Super Bowl contender.

Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is feeling even more pressure, as he could be one or two bad games away from losing his job after tossing an NFL-high 10 interceptions during the team's 1-4 start.

The veteran signal-callers – friends from their days together with the Bengals -- will face off when the Cardinals host the Jets on "Monday Night Football," and whether they continue the troubling trend or dig out of it will help decide the outcome.

"I think it's just a reminder that it's hard to play quarterback in this league," Fitzpatrick said. "This is a tough position. Once you think you've got it all figured out, you're going to get humbled if you don't make sure you're doing it each and every week.

It's a tough position to play, but I know (Carson) and not just the type of guy or the type of preparer he is, but the type of talent he is. And I have a lot of confidence in myself. For me at least – I don't want to speak for him – but for me, I'm just going to keep working and I think good things will come."

Palmer was fantastic in 2015, setting career highs in passing yards (4,671), touchdowns (35) and quarterback rating (104.6) while finishing in a tie for second in the MVP voting.

The air attack hasn't been as sharp this season, as Palmer's completion percentage is down and he's thrown six touchdowns but five interceptions.

Some of that can be attributed to drops and wrong routes by the Cardinals' wideouts. Some of it is on Palmer, as he hasn't thrown some deep balls far enough to connect.

"I always feel like we're close," Palmer said. "You just continue to practice and you continue to work and hope that what you do on the practice field shows up on Sunday. We're just going to continue to work, and if we have to run the ball for 158 yards or whatever it was (172 against the 49ers), we're happy to do that if that's a winning recipe for us. But we're always working on the passing game."

Fitzpatrick was impressive in his first year in New York in 2015, throwing for 244.1 yards per game with 31 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. This season his performance has plummeted, as his 64.7 quarterback rating is the worst in the NFL, below even the recently-benched Blaine Gabbert.

Palmer, though, is steadfast in his belief that Fitzpatrick will turn it around. The two played together in 2007 and 2008 in Cincinnati and developed a strong bond.

Every time Fitzpatrick is dismissed, it seems, he proves himself again. That's how the former seventh-round pick is a starting NFL quarterback more than a decade after getting drafted.

"That's Ryan's DNA," Palmer said. "Ryan will bounce back. He's just that guy. … He's always been counted out. I'll be the first one to run around the locker room saying, 'Don't count him out,' because he's a great player and has been for a long time. He's hit a couple bumps and he'll bounce back from those. Hopefully, not against us."

Fitzpatrick would love to do it in his native Arizona. He starred at Highland High School in Gilbert before heading to Harvard for college.

While Fitzpatrick hasn't lived in Arizona since his youth, he plans to return after his playing days are over, and thinks back fondly of his childhood.

"I was a huge Cardinals fan growing up," Fitzpatrick said. "It kind of started that I was a huge Arizona State fan. That's where both my parents went. So I love the Sun Devils. Jake Plummer was obviously my favorite player, and then when he went to the Cardinals, I loved that. I loved the Cardiac Cards in those years."

Fitzpatrick would take a Plummer-esque underdog victory on Monday. His coach, Todd Bowles, continues to profess faith in a turnaround despite the woes.

"You've got to realize when it's the quarterback's fault and when there's a chemistry thing," Bowles said. "You've got to be on the same page every time. Fitz is playing better. He played better last game. He cut down on turnovers, so we've just got to continue to get better."

These days, it is the Cardinals with juggernaut upside, but that's contingent on the passing game returning to form. Palmer's teammates believe there are plenty of fireworks remaining in his right arm.

"Any time we have '3' on the field with us," safety Tyrann Mathieu said, "we've got a chance to score 50 points."

Past images of games between the Cardinals and this week's opponent, the New York Jets



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