Quarterback Carson Palmer (3) goes over some details with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) during Tuesday's OTA.
Quarterback Carson Palmer lofted a beautiful deep ball down the right sideline of the team's practice field Tuesday afternoon, and wide receiver Michael Floyd adjusted to make the catch.
Not only was the 40-yard vertical strike the type of play Bruce Arians loves, but the completion served as another positive measuring stick for an offense which has come a long way in the past 12 months since the last time the team started up their organized team activities.
A year ago, the Cardinals' coach had to make concessions within his playbook because the system proved hard to grasp, but now with Palmer, Floyd, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and other offensive weapons returning for their second season, the comfort level has grown exponentially.
"Myself and other guys were out here last year just swimming (in terminology)," Palmer said. "Inside your head you're thinking about 80 different things. Today I was thinking about one
thing, and that was my first progression, my second progression, my third progression. It was actually enjoyable."
Arians saw total turnout from the roster on the first day of the three-week voluntary OTA schedule, as the Cards want to build on an encouraging 2013 season.
The Cardinals started slowly last year when a home loss to Seattle dropped them to 3-4, but picked it up with a 7-2 finish. In the first seven games, Palmer's touchdown-to-interception ratio was 8-to-13, while over the final nine it jumped to 16-to-9. The offense's improvement coincided with the team success, and the stated goal of playing in the hometown Super Bowl next season can only be met if it continues that ascension.
"For us, it's just a matter of honing in and getting better," Arians said. "We know now what to do, but how to do it better, that's what we're focusing on."
Palmer said he sat down after last season and watched every snap multiple times. Now, instead of dissecting Arians' offense through the lens of Andrew Luck in Indianapolis or Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, he can make adjustments after watching his own actions.
"I keep saying there's no comparison (from last year to this year), and there shouldn't be," Palmer said. "When you have the opportunity to watch cutups of yourself doing it – not two other teams where a coach was previously – you just gain confidence, gain comfort."
The Cardinals have added new pieces to the offense, which means potential impact wide receivers like Ted Ginn and John Brown will still have that learning curve. However, it's no longer the entire roster trying to figure out the offense, and with a veteran under center, it should help out everyone.
"Last year (Palmer) was learning, now he's coaching," Arians said. "They're getting on the same page. Every play you see (the pass-catchers) come back and there's good dialogue from what they saw. 'Why did you break out? Why did you break in?' That's by far the best part."
Fitzgerald wasn't only learning a new offensive system last year, but also a new position as he spent more time in the slot. Two of his three best offensive performances came in the final four games of last year, and despite being an entrenched star, he is also looking for an edge.
"It's nice coming into the offseason with familiarity of the system," Fitzgerald said when workouts began in April. "Now I can focus on the nuances and minor details that will help me improve."
There are plenty of questions for a Cardinals offense which is reshuffling its line and could end up with as many as seven new starters, but after its first day facing the team's defense, the confidence is high.
"Where we're at this point is light years from where we were last year," Arians said. "It's night and day."
The Cardinals begin organized team activities for 2014