- Associated Press - Thursday, August 21, 2014

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - A better offense could offset any problems that surface for what has been a stout defense in Arizona.

Quarterback Carson Palmer says he’s not sure you can fill the shoes of the three players the Cardinals lost up the middle on defense. Tackle Darnell Dockett was lost for the season with a knee injury in practice Monday.

The team already was without both inside linebackers. Karlos Dansby left for Cleveland as a free agent and Daryl Washington is suspended for the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

“There’s not a bunch of Darnell Docketts out there,” Palmer said. “There’s not a bunch of Karloses. There’s not a bunch of guys out there that are athletic freaks like Daryl was.”

Palmer said he knows there will be replacements who bring talent to those positions, but he thinks the offense is ready to bear a bigger responsibility.

“We need to be kind of the backbone,” he said. “We need to be counted on to win games at the end of games. We’ve got to pick up and continue to improve week after week. Who knows how the season’s going to shake down, but we need to be ready offensively to carry.”

The offense, coach Bruce Arians said, needs to pick up from where it was in the second half of last season, when Arizona went 6-2, then build from there.

In each of the first two preseason games, Arizona’s first-team offense has mounted a long touchdown drive on its first possession.

In the opener against Houston, Palmer was 5 of 5 for 84 yards, culminated by a 7-yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald. Last week at Minnesota, the Cardinals went 93 yards in nine plays for a score the first time they had the ball.

But it was only a brief appearance. This week against Palmer’s old team, the Cincinnati Bengals, Cardinals starters will play longer. Arians said they will go no more than a half, less than that if they play well.

“It’s hard to be perfectly comfortable when you know you’re only getting a couple of shots,” Palmer said, “because you have to have every one be perfect. First downs got to be great, second downs got to be great. because third-and-10 can be so difficult.”

Palmer has not had one of his top targets, Michael Floyd. Floyd, who topped 1,000 yards receiving in his second NFL season a year ago, has been sidelined with a groin injury but is practicing. He’s expected to play against Cincinnati on Saturday night.

New wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie John Brown bring a speed element that was lacking a year ago. Getting in sync with players who run so fast takes time.

“I like the speed,” Palmer said. “I think it adds a new facet to our offense and is going to make some of the underneath stuff a little better. It’s going to make the run game a little bit better.”

The running game hasn’t produced much statistically. Arizona is averaging 2.5 yards per carry, but Arians says he isn’t concerned.

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