Going the distance with Palmer, other QBs

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians envisions new quarterback Carson Palmer using a strong arm to strike well down the field in 2013.

"Having seen him throw it downfield so many times over the years, as good as it gets," Arians told reporters during a news conference Tuesday. "I know Joe Flacco, as a young guy, has a reputation of being a great deep-ball thrower, but I don’t think there has been anyone better than Carson in the last few years throwing the ball down the football field. It's been his forte forever."

2012 Average Pass Distance (min. 100 att.)

Arians was with the Pittsburgh Steelers when a young Palmer played for the AFC North-rival Cincinnati Bengals.

Palmer was indeed a special talent as the first overall choice in the 2003 draft. Palmer is 33 years old now. He has suffered knee and elbow injuries over the years. Arizona acquired him from the Oakland Raiders for late-round draft considerations. Can he still sling it?

"When I was a young scout with the Browns and watching in pregame warmups, I remember thinking that is what the first overall pick in the draft throws the ball like," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "He doesn't do that anymore, but at times he thinks he can. His mind writes checks that his arm can't cash any more. He’s used to being the best player on the field, the first pick. I don't think he can put the franchise on his back and make Aaron Rodgers-type throws possession after possession."

Even so, Williamson said he thinks Palmer makes the Cardinals much better than they would have been otherwise. He expects Larry Fitzgerald's production to improve dramatically. And he thinks Palmer can throw the ball well enough to hit on some of the downfield throws Arians wants featured in the offense -- albeit at the risk of throwing 20-plus interceptions.

"I think he fits the Arians system," Williamson said. "I don't love him. He's not close to what he once was. At one point, I thought he was one of the four or five best quarterbacks in football. ... He is still an effective player."

The chart shows how many yards past the line of scrimmage quarterbacks' passes traveled on average.

The numbers are instructive when applied to the San Francisco 49ers. Colin Kaepernick ranked first and teammate Alex Smith ranked 34th in average pass length, affirming that the 49ers changed their offense for the stronger-armed Kaepernick.

Andrew Luck, who played in an Arians-coordinated offense with the Indianapolis Colts, ranked a close third behind Kaepernick and Jay Cutler. Palmer ranked 25th while playing for the Raiders. His passes traveled 8.07 yards past the line of scrimmage on average, nearly two full yards behind the average for Kaepernick. That number will presumably rise in Arians' offense.

"We're going to put a running game with it that will help him, and obviously we’ve got a fast, young receiving corps that is excellent," Arians said. "I'll echo about that offensive line -- it's not a problem and it won’t be a problem.

"Our guys went through a ton of injuries last year. Having walked into that room today, that’s as good a looking football team as I’ve seen in my 20 years of coaching, stepping in the first day. There’s not a bad body in the room. It’s a great looking bunch of athletes, and we will never use talent as an excuse."