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Palmer: J.J. Nelson realizing he's a 'big-time player'

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At first blush, the 8-2 Arizona Cardinals are a group of grizzled veterans all enjoying Pro Bowl seasons: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Chris Johnson, Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson.

Yet in Sunday night's thrilling 34-31 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, it was obvious that Bruce Arians' rookies are starting to light fires of their own.

Speedy receiver J.J. Nelson snagged four passes for 142 yards, including a beautiful 64-yard touchdown bomb from Palmer. Running back David Johnson caught a key touchdown pass. Linebacker Markus Golden earned a sack as part of a demon pass rush, as did nose tackle Rodney Gunter.

The rookies add a striking dimension to an already potent title contender.

None stood out Sunday like Nelson, who filled in for injured receiver Michael Floyd. With John Brown also nursing a nagging hamstring injury, it was the rookie who played deep threat in Arians' bombs-away offense.

Every game, all season

"I felt like it was my time," Nelson said, via the Arizona Republic. "I just had to come out and execute."

With Arizona's offense stuck in the mud during the first half, Nelson jump-started the points machine, hauling in a Palmer heave on the 64-yard score on the first drive of the second half.

"I think everybody expected him to make the plays that he did, and I'm just glad to see him do it," Palmer said of Nelson. "I think he started to realize he's not just a player, he's a big-time player."

At just 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Nelson can get beaten up by defensive backs. His 4.28 40-yard-dash speed, however, makes him ideal for Arians' scheme. Nelson's speed is such that teammates teased him about being caught by defensive end Michael Johnson after a long catch, deke and run late in the third quarter.

"Oh yeah, I said something to him," Brown said. "'You're supposed to be the fastest one on the team!' He probably was too excited and got caught, but we're all going to give him trouble in the meeting room."

Added Larry Fitzgerald: "I said, 'You run a 4.2 at the combine, and you get run down by a 6-foot-8, 290-pound defensive end? It was disheartening.'"

Actually, it's disheartening to the rest of the NFL that the Cardinals unearthed another speed demon to deploy in an already dangerous offense.

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