With the NFL’s top 100 well under way, we here at Real Sport thought we would give you our own version; The RS 100. Every writer here had the chance to vote for the 100 best players from the 2015 season. This ranking was done regardless of position value or salary cap cost. It was simply based on who had the best 2015 season. As a result you won’t see quality players like Jordy Nelson anywhere on our ranking as he didn’t play a single snap in the 2015 season.
Voting panel: Toby Durant, Remy Cabache, Cameron Tennyson, Rebecca Rennie, Daniel Hernandez, David Pruett, Ryan Tolster
Carson Palmer, Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
(TD: #14, RC: #16, CT: #14, RR: #14, DH: #17, DP: #11, RT: #15)
Carson Palmer has played a full season just twice since leaving Cincinnati in 2011. Fortunately for the Arizona Cardinals and football fans everywhere, 2015 was one of those years.
The veteran rolled back the years with a performance we haven’t seen from him since his gruesome knee injury, back in the days when he was going to be the one to break into the Brady-Manning level of play.
In 2015 Palmer set career highs in yards (4,671), touchdowns (35), yards per attempt (8.7) and QB rating (104.6) as the Cardinals offense lit the NFL up and they went 13-3 in the regular season.
The defining element of Palmer’s play in 2015, the thing he was doing better than anyone else in the NFL, was throwing deep. The trend has been to stretch defenses horizontally for a while now, but Bruce Arians and Steve Keim didn’t create their team like that. They wanted to go over the top, and Palmer was more than capable of dropping bombs.
This is a backfoot throw that goes nearly 40 yards in the air with pinpoint accuracy. It’s not supposed to happen like that. The further you push your passes down the field the harder it is to complete them. Yes, the big plays come that way, but so do the bad ones. Deep passes are more likely to be incomplete or intercepted than short ones. For Palmer though, he was just brutally accurate down the field. That’s what separated him from every other quarterback in 2015. Even though he lead the league by a wide margin in average depth of target he still completed 63.7% of his passes and threw his fewest interceptions for a complete season in his career. That takes some serious talent.
The pass protection here is terrific, but so is the coverage. That is a tiny window that Palmer threads the ball into. And because he can do that Larry Fitzgerald has acres of room to run into behind the linebacker.
Arizona were able to generate extra time for all these deep throws with play action and extra blockers, sometimes they would only send 3 receivers out on routes but it didn’t matter because Palmer was in such sensational form that any small window could be exploited. The deep crossing routes, out-and-ups and skinny posts were like a throwback to a more exciting era of football and I for one loved watching the Cardinals offense in 2015. I only hope Palmer and the others can maintain this style in 2016.