Down and Distance with Bruce Arians: Carson Palmer is “extremely efficient right now”

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians wasn’t happy with the way the team’s been executing plays in training camp, so he put a challenge out to them last Thursday.

“We need to start eliminating penalties and mental errors; (we’re) killing ourselves,” Arians said. “(It) speaks a lot about the character of a football team when you have too many on a continual basis. The only thing that I see right now that’s holding us back is us beating ourselves, and that speaks about the character of the team.”

“I’m really looking forward to the next two days to see how much of that we can eliminate,” Arians said.

When Arians finally had time to break down the game film from Saturday’s game against the Chiefs, he didn’t see anything different than what he saw when he was on the sideline calling plays.

“I thought our starters came out extremely focused (and) ready to play. The lights caught up with some young guys; very poor tackling,” Arians said. “Way too many mental errors on basic plays. Those things have to be eliminated.”

Quarterback Phillip Sims took the offense on a seven-play, 89-yard drive late in the fourth quarter. Here’s where the lights may have gotten to the younger wide receivers: Travis Harvey did catch the touchdown pass from Sims, and a 40-yard pass which set Arizona up in good position to get that score, but Sims tried him three other times on the drive, and they were all incomplete. Plus, wide receiver Trevor Harman couldn’t haul in Sims’ pass on second and goal from the one-yard line. Arians says the young kids have to take advantage of those opportunities when they come their way.

“That’ll get you cut,” Arians said. “You gotta make those grimy catches inside the five (yard line). There’s never a window that’s very big, and it’s going to come tight, and there’s going to be a lot of contact. The guys that can make those plays stay in the league, and the guys that don’t, don’t.”

It wasn’t all bad with the younger players. Arians singled out wide receiver Jaxon Shipley and nose tackle/defensive end Xavier Williams for their contributions. Shipley had 138 yards in kickoff returns, including a 56-yarder. He also caught one pass for 21 yards.

“Jaxon (Shipley) showed up big time. You always like when a guy shows up when the lights turn on, and Ship(ley) turned out pretty good,” Arians said.

Williams also relished the spotlight. He was fourth on the team in total tackles with four. Not a bad performance for someone playing out of position.

“Oh Xavier (Williams), he played very well. We moved him out to (defensive) end, and he hasn’t even practiced, and (he) had no mental errors. (He) played pretty solid,” Arians said.

Running back Andre Ellington’s hamstring was pretty elastic on the 57-yard pass he caught from quarterback Carson Palmer in the first quarter. He got an earful from Arians and his teammates for getting caught from behind by Kansas City cornerback Ron Parker.

“He (Ellington) was probably a little afraid to open up totally, but he’s fine. It’s just a matter of getting in shape and not getting caught,” Arians said.

Palmer was on the money in that opening series, just like he’s been all throughout training camp. He completed all four of his passes, and accounted for 77 of the 80 yards on the drive through the air. Arians says the arrow for Palmer continues to go up each and every day.

“There’s no sideways in it at all, he (Palmer) gets better and better,” Arians said. “The more we’re used to each other, and the more things we look at and try, he likes some, he doesn’t like others, (so) we’ll throw them out, but yeah, he’s extremely efficient right now.”

Arians and Palmer faced each other a lot in their Steelers/Bengals days. Arians says they would try their hardest to “kill” Palmer, but he couldn’t be taken out.

“He’d (Palmer) always answer the bell,” Arians said. “(In the) fourth quarter, he’d still be standing there. I didn’t know as big a gym rat as he was until you start working with the guy.”

Arians let the cat out of the bag so to speak with his plans for the starters on Saturday against the San Diego Chargers. He says they’ll play the entire first quarter, then they’ll give way to the second teamers. Arians says quarterback Drew Stanton will take over for Palmer in the second quarter, then, like the Chiefs game, Logan Thomas will come in, followed by Sims.

Thomas and Sims both performed nicely against Kansas City, much to Arians’ delight.

“I thought Logan (Thomas) had a very good outing. There were two plays that I wish he would’ve had his protection straightened out. He threw hot and he shouldn’t have. He should’ve fixed the protection one time, but other than that, he stood in the pocket, (he) was accurate, (and he) got through some reads. It was one of his better days,” Arians said.

“I thought Phillip (Sims) had very little chance because the guys (Chiefs) were loose on him every time,” Arians said. “He showed great poise when he was scrambling, getting out, getting his eyes downfield (and) making throws. (He) did a nice job in that two-minute drive for a touchdown.”

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