ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer a question mark for Sunday's game, Denver Broncos defensive players say they don't need to know who their opponent will put behind center and that they will concern themselves with the plays they believe whomever is in the lineup will run.
Palmer, who has missed the past two games with shoulder woes, was excused from Cardinals practice Wednesday and is set to visit with a specialist this week because of continuing issues. Should Palmer not be in the lineup -- he is doubtful to play in Sports Authority Field at Mile High at this point -- the Cardinals would start Drew Stanton for the third consecutive week.
Stanton is 2-0 this season filling in for Palmer. Before it was known Palmer was going to miss Wednesday's practice, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians described Palmer's recovery as "still waiting to see, still doing a lot of treatment with it."
"They don't care who plays quarterback," said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, referencing the Cardinals' 3-0 start. "So we shouldn't care who plays quarterback."
The Broncos say both quarterbacks are largely pocket passers, so the Cardinals' offense has looked similar with either thus far. Palmer's 37 pass attempts in the season opener against the San Diego Chargers are still the season high, but Stanton has thrown 29 and 33 passes in the Cardinals' past two games.
Stanton's completion percentage was significantly lower -- 48.3 and 54.5 percent in the past two games -- than Palmer's 64.9 in the opener. But the Cardinals have been able to move the ball when they've needed to, and wide receiver Michael Floyd leads the league in yards per catch at 22.9 in an offense willing to take its chances down the field at times.
"They don't change their offense. They're going to run the same plays," Broncos head coach John Fox said. "It looks very familiar to the old Steeler days. They call mash, or power … they're going to establish the run. And they're going to take shots down the field; they're going to take seven or eight [deep passes] a game."
The sample size is small at just three games, but Stanton has also targeted the team's pass-catchers roughly the same as Palmer did in the opener. Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald lead the way with 22 and 21 targets, respectively, while Cardinals rookie wide receiver John Brown has been targeted five, four and six times in the team's three games.
"They're both pocket quarterbacks, so we treat them both the same way," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "… When you look at it, you see them with the same progressions. There are some throws Carson Palmer may do more, but the offense is the offense and that's how we have to approach it."
Overall, the Broncos would seem to get their first chance to rush a quarterback who, in either case, hasn't run that often this season. The Broncos have faced Andrew Luck, Alex Smith and Russell Wilson in their three games, so either Palmer or Stanton -- 12 carries combined -- would likely bring a different, more aggressive approach in the pass rush than the Broncos have shown to this point.
The Cardinals' receivers -- with Floyd, Fitzgerald to go with the rookie Brown -- have the Broncos' attention as well.
"Those three receivers, I think it's probably the toughest receivers we've played so far," Harris said. "Big, physical receiver guys. Their quarterback [Stanton], he loves to throw shots, throw deep. That's something that I've been doing extra myself, just catching a lot of deep balls getting ready for that."
"I definitely agree," Talib said. "These guys, they get vertical and they catch that ball. As a DB, that's the ball you don't want caught on you, and that's the one they're going to throw 8-10 times. Like I said, they're going to give you a whole bunch of them.”