The Minnesota Vikings have played against some of the best quarterbacks the NFL has to offer this season. From Aaron Rodgers to Peyton Manning to Russell Wilson to Matt Ryan to Philip Rivers, most of the quarterbacks with big reputations have crossed paths with the Vikings.
Thursday night the Vikings are going to face one of the best of 2015 in Carson Palmer. A veteran of the NFL wars, there isn’t much Palmer hasn’t seen, and while he doesn’t get the accolades of the aforementioned, Vikings defensive players know exactly who he is and what he can do.
“Carson Palmer is a great quarterback,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “He’s having a great year. I was told he’s being talked about as being the league MVP this year. That should explain a lot about him and the way he’s been making great throws.”
The Cardinals have the league’s top scoring offense thanks in large part to Palmer, who is art or near the top in just about every important statistical category for quarterbacks.
He isn’t a scrambler. He doesn’t move around in the pocket much. But he gets the job done at an extremely high level.
“Palmer makes some passes that I’ve probably never seen in my life,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. “He’s on the money. He’s a good quarterback. He’s not mobile, but he knows where to put the ball.”
The Cardinals were in a similar position to the one they’re in now, flying high in the NFC West and having all the earmarks of a Super Bowl contender. Then Palmer got hurt and the offense fell apart.
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said the Cardinals that have once again risen to the top of the NFC and have done so in no small measure because of Palmer and what he can do. Yet, he doesn’t seem to get the national respect that his game, his winning percentage and his numbers should garner.
“He’s one of the elite quarterbacks that nobody talks about,” Robison said. “People talk about him, but they don’t put him up there with the Bradys and the Mannings and the Rodgers and those type of guys, but you can see that he makes their football team successful because he makes good decisions with the ball and he also has the arm strength to throw the ball downfield to those big-play wide receivers.”
Palmer has been a leader on and off the field. When he went down to injury last year, head coach Bruce Arians said there was never any doubt whose team this was. There was never a quarterback controversy because Palmer never checked out when he was on the shelf. He took his rehab as seriously as he took his preparation for game day and the results have been obvious since his return.
“I think during his time when he was rehabbing he also did a lot of mental preparation on our offense and going back and watching every throw he’d made for a year and a half and progressed nicely mentally,” Arians said. “When he came back it was like he never missed a beat because he had worked so hard. Not just on his body, rehabbing his knee and shoulder, but also spent a lot of time on film.”
Palmer hasn’t done it alone. He has a quartet of big-play receivers who each make contributions, but he has found a way to incorporate every skill position player on the roster into the mix.
He isn’t going to run for 20 yards. If the pocket collapses, it will collapse around him. He’ll go down with the ship. But, as the Cardinals make a run for a Super Bowl again this season, they may have no more important player on the team than Palmer.
“He does everything he does at a high level,” Rhodes said. “He can make every throw. He doesn’t make big mistakes, where he makes a bad pass. He’s very good at what he does and we’re going to have to execute our defense at a high level because we know they’re bringing a lot of talent up against us and we need to be ready for that and just go out and play.”