Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 7/30/13
July 30, 2013 GLENDALE, Ariz. Will Carson Palmers presence equate to more wins for the Cardinals? Is it too much to expect San Franciscos Colin Kaepernick and Seattles Russell Wilson to sustain their level of play? Even if the Cards improve, will we know it in the rugged NFC West? We sat down with ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando to get his take on these questions and a few others on Monday at University of Phoenix Stadium. How do we know that Palmer is an upgrade? Sando: Hes going to be so much better than what they had that if theyre competitive at home and win some of those games that were going the other way, thats a start. This isnt Year 3; its Year 1 for (coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim). Its not like you have to get to 10 wins. You just have to feel like this is an improved team, and youre not hitting your head against the wall, doing the same old thing, over and over. Everybody can do the eyeball test and see Palmer is better, but one of the tools we have at ESPN is the total QBR metric. It looks at more than just the simple quarterback rating. It really examines how a quarterback affects winning and losing.The difference between where the Cardinals played last year and where Palmer played last year is about three wins over a 16-game season. Three wins doesnt sound like much, but it is. Is it reasonable to expect Wilson and Kaepernick to duplicate last seasons success? Sando: When you look at both of those teams, they are largely defined by their running games and their defense. With a guy like (the Colts) Andrew Luck, he was really carrying that whole thing. It doesnt mean hes way better than those other two, but he was pulling a heavy sled in an offense that was vertical down the field. He had Reggie Wayne and not a whole lot else. Seattle and San Francisco have elite backs, strong defenses, Seattles got a great home-field advantage and San Francisco still has a pretty good one, so there are a lot of things helping these guys be good things that havent existed (in Arizona) recently. Did Wilson, in particular, surprise you? Sando: Yeah. They were very high on him in camp, but in the back of my mind Im thinking we heard that about Max Hall, too. When you look at Russell Wilson, hes got huge hands, he has long arms, and hes a legitimate athlete who played pro baseball. You just wondered if hed be a little gimmicky. There was some of that, but he was a really good pocket passer, too. He would have been a very high pick if he had been 6-2, 6-3. What about the Rams? Sando: I think theyre definitely trending up, but they have so many young players that there are a lot of unknowns. I wouldnt guarantee their record will be better than last year (7-8-1), but I think it will be similar, and I think theyll be competitive. Theyre counting on (QB) Sam Bradford to be the focal point of that offense. They dont have (RB) Steven Jackson any more. I think he can do it. I think hes had an historically bad cast around him the last few years that has held him back, but until he does it, we wont know. Even if the Cards are improved, will we know it in a division where two teams San Francisco and Seattle are considered Super Bowl contenders and the other, St. Louis, went 4-1-1 in the division last season? Sando: You cant pick your family members, and these teams are the Cardinals NFC West family, for better or for worse. With San Francisco or Seattle, they both won 11 games last season. If one of them had gone 13-3 or 14-2 last year, Id say yeah, theyre due for a natural regression, but I think 10 or 11 wins is a reasonable expectations for both of those teams. Picking a winloss record for the Cardinals is tough. They were 4-0 last year, but I dont think thats the team they were. I think the team that fired a coach and was 1-11 was that team. I think theyre going to be a lot better than that. I think theyll be more competitive offensively with Palmer and an improved offensive line. Their backups arent guys who arent going to have a job if theyre cut. But are they going to be way better than 5-11? I dont know. There are so many unanswered questions. There have been so many changes. Theyve made 80-some roster moves since January. What does that mean for Week 1 when they could be finding their way? Also today on FOXSportsArizona.com: -- The Cardinals roster undergoes a major overhaul. -- Cardinals notebook: The defensive line is showing versatility and depth and an injury update. -- Later today: Carson Palmer understands the Kurt Warner comparisons, but he sees vast differences in their comparative situations. -- FollowCraig Morgan on Twitter
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