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Bruce Arians: Carson Palmer is not Cardinals' problem

When the Cardinals travel to Atlanta this weekend, the NFL's highest-octane 2015 offense will be staring longingly across the field at the league's premier offense in 2016.

After finishing as the MVP runner-up for last year's NFC West champions, Carson Palmer has seen his passer rating plummet from a career-high 104.6 to 83.6 for this year's disappointing 4-5-1 outfit.

While breakout star David Johnson has joined Edgerrin James (2000, 2005) and Larry Brown (1972) as the only running backs to total 100 or more yards from scrimmage in each of the season's first 10 games, Arizona's aerial attack has sputtered more often than not.

Inquiring minds want to know: Is Palmer washed up? Will coach Bruce Arians be chasing Tony Romo next offseason as Palmer takes the fall for the Cardinals' 2016 shortcomings?

"They're wrong on that one," Arians said Wednesday, addressing Palmer's critics.

Arians acknowledges that he and Palmer will bear the brunt of the blame because they are the face of the franchise.

"But Carson, he put a lot of trust in some guys that haven't come through for him," Arians added, via the team's official website.

The offensive line has lost left tackle Jared Veldheer and All Pro guard Evan Mathis to season-ending injuries while right tackle D.J. Humphries has been a liability in pass protection. Palmer has already been sacked more times this season (30) than all of last season (25).

In last week's loss at Minnesota, Palmer became the first quarterback this season to be pressured on more than 60 percent of his dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus.

"It's been a long time since I've seen a quarterback take as many hits as Palmer took today," FOX broadcaster Troy Aikman said at the end of the game.

As phenomenal as Larry Fitzgerald has been in the slot, Michael Floyd has been plagued by drops and John Brown has simply vanished from the offense for large stretches of the season. Palmer sports a sterling 104.6 passer rating on throws to Fitzgerald versus an astonishingly low 69.3 to Floyd and 54.0 to Brown.

"We thought that would be one of the strengths of our offense," Arians said.

Even if we acknowledge the lack of support this season, Palmer has been part of the problem. Whereas his pocket movement was sublime coming off of ACL surgery last season, it has regressed behind an offensive line he no longer seems to trust. He already owns as many giveaways (13) in 10 games this season as he had all of last season.

If Blake Bortles and Jared Goff are the biggest franchise question marks around the league, Palmer isn't far behind.

To pull off a bounce-back campaign in 2017, Arians must find a way to protect Palmer, fix Brown, rebuild a back-breaking special teams unit, add a reliable veteran cornerback and figure out how to pay defensive stars Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson.

Can the Cardinals pry open their Super Bowl window for one more season with a 37-year-old quarterback on the decline? That's a tall order.

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