Carson Palmer spends enough time on the sideline these days.
When a Raiders penalty gave the Cardinals’ starting offense new life on Saturday, the veteran quarterback was ready to take advantage.
Palmer, who’s been on a reduced workload in practice to keep his arm fresh, made his preseason debut a successful one by capping his lone drive with a touchdown pass in a 20-10 win over the Raiders.
The Cardinals initially kicked a field goal on the possession, but an illegal formation on Oakland gave them a first down. Palmer then found Brittan Golden in the end zone between a pair of defenders on a third-and-goal from the 12 for a 7-0 lead.
“That was a nice little present we got there from them on that,” Palmer said. “We did a good job executing.”
Coach Bruce Arians said in the regular season he may have kept the points on the board, but between the offensive rhythm and the setting, decided to go for the touchdown. Palmer wanted more playing time after that, lobbying to finish out a first quarter which he said Arians promised him, but Arians quickly shut that down.
“I said 15 plays,” Arians told Palmer. “You’re done.”
Palmer finished the contest 4-of-8 for 39 yards and a touchdown. He should have had a touchdown pass earlier in the drive when Jaron Brown streaked wide open across the middle of the field, but the pass sailed just out of reach.
“(Brown) was perfect,” Arians said. “(Palmer) just put a little too much juice on it.”
The first-team defense allowed the Raiders – playing without quarterback Derek Carr, running back Marshawn Lynch and wideout Amari Cooper – to march into field goal range on their first possession. Defensive tackle Josh Mauro got a paw on the kick to keep Oakland scoreless, but Arians wasn’t happy.
“We should be putting the hammer down,” Arians said. “We’ve talked about that a bunch.”
Most of the defensive starters remained in for a second series and stoned the Raiders on fourth-and-1 at the Arizona 46 to force a turnover on downs. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche saw some action with that group and animatedly flew off the field after the stop.
“That feels good, man, because as a defense that’s what we’re predicated on – making stops and getting off the field,” Nkemdiche said. “If teams are going to line up and say ‘We’re going to get a first down’ and then we stop it, that’s big for us.”
Drew Stanton helped quell any rumblings of a backup quarterback controversy with a strong performance in his debut. Stanton played the second quarter, finishing 11-of-15 for 112 yards and a touchdown.
His scoring pass was a nifty one, as Stanton scrambled to his right and found tight end Troy Niklas, who navigated his way to an open area in a crowded end zone. Gabbert played the second half and finished 5-of-9 for 53 yards. He was sacked four times.
“I thought all three quarterbacks played really well,” Arians said.
Golden was one of the offensive standouts, finishing with three catches for 44 yards and a score as he battles for a roster spot. Scooby Wright registered the tackle on the fourth-and-1 stop and added a forced fumble on a kickoff, although Oakland recovered it. Recently-signed linebacker Josh Bynes finished with a team-high six tackles, a forced fumble and a half-sack.
It was a light day of work for many of the Cardinals’ stars. Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson both started but were out of the game midway through the first series. Johnson carried the ball three times for 16 yards – showcasing a nasty stiff-arm twice on a 10-yard run – while Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted.
The Cardinals played without left tackle D.J. Humphries (hamstring), wide receiver John Brown (quadriceps) and wide receiver Chad Williams (shin splints), among others.
Overall, it was an encouraging night. The team mostly avoided injuries – tight end Ricky Seals-Jones suffered an ankle injury and Golden tweaked a groin – and the starters looked solid in their first preseason work.
“It wasn’t perfect,” Palmer said. “You never walk away feeling you did everything perfect. But it just felt good to be out playing again.”