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49ers-Cardinals preview: Is sacking Carson Palmer still the best way to beat Arizona?

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Getting to Carson Palmer has been the key to beating the Cardinals in years past. Does that strategy still hold up?

Arizona Cardinals v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer isn’t the most durable player, and has definitely slowed down after a brief career resurgence. The key to beating the Cardinals over the past few years has been simple: hit Palmer, and he’ll be off his game.

But has that been true this season?

The Cardinals are 1-2, while Palmer has already been sacked 11 times. The Dallas Cowboys brought him down six times for a loss of 42 yards, but it’s worth noting that Palmer still completed 29 of 48 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

That’s a pretty decent stat line, and that was the most recent Cardinals game. Against the Colts, Palmer completed 19 of 36 passes for 332 yards with a touchdown and an interception. In that game, he was sacked four times for a loss of 26 yards.

And finally, in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, Palmer had his worst game, completing 27 of 48 passes for 268 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. The Lions only managed to sack Palmer once for a loss of five yards.

Over the course of three games, while under pressure, Carson Palmer ranks 23rd among 32 NFL quarterbacks with a 57.1 percent adjusted completion rate, and 26th with a QB rating of 45.6. By comparison, he ranked 26th and 22nd respectively in those categories in 2016, and third and second in 2015. Much has changed since 2015.

It’s a limited sample size thus far, but it seems to hold up with his poor performances last year. It’s a limited sample size, so we have to take it with a grain of salt, but the 49ers should definitely try and make him uncomfortable early and often. I think the lack of a consistent run game will play a bigger part in this game, but expect Robert Saleh to send some creative blitzing at the Cardinals QB.

Palmer is playing fairly well, and his receivers are playing extremely well. Dontae Johnson and Rashard Robinson are going to be tested early and often against the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson. Fitzgerald in particular is coming off a game in which he caught 13 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.