The Oakland Raiders have received a ton of criticism for trading away a first and second round draft pick to acquire Carson Palmer last season. Thrown to the fire in a new and unfamiliar situation, he naturally had an inconsistent first year.
But as difficult as it is to do right now fresh off the draft, Raiders fans should forget about the trade and focus on the future. And that future starts with the present.
Palmer is the Raiders’ starting quarterback, and the organization has done a great job of working to build around him. It brought in a new regime, and as a result of each of the new leaders, excitement abounds in the Bay.
It’s easy for outsiders to look at the Palmer trade and scratch their heads. But it should all make sense sooner than later.
Here are five reasons why Carson Palmer will break out in 2012 and validate the trade that brought him to Oakland.
New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will work wonders for Carson Palmer. He brings not only a wealth of NFL coaching experience but also a quality track record of players he’s helped develop.
From 2004 to 2006, he served as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons and helped develop Michael Vick. He also worked as quarterbacks coach for the Houston Texans from 2010 to 2011, playing an integral role in helping Matt Schaub become a top-tier passer.
Now he’ll try to get Palmer performing consistently at a high level just as he’s capable of doing.
Knapp’s impact extends to the offensive system he employs, which features zone blocking up front, quick reads and speed. He brings to Oakland a new and exciting playbook that should benefit Palmer in his age-32 season.
Impact players like Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey should all thrive in this system, and Palmer should have an easier time making plays as a result.
According to the Contra Costa Times, Palmer loves the new playbook. He touches on the play-action pass and how it fits the Raiders’ personnel. He also discusses the threat of screens and check-downs in such a system.
Knowing that his playmakers will take some of the pressure off him as a passer, Palmer sounds excited and invigorated to start this new chapter.
Raiders fans should be too.
There’s no denying that Darren McFadden is a complete animal with the ball in his hands. But there’s also no denying that he can’t do much if he’s not on the field.
McFadden has struggled with injuries. In 2006, at Arkansas, he suffered a dislocated toe that slowed him down to start the season. He suffered another toe injury with the Raiders in 2008, which caused him to miss three games and be limited in several others. Then in 2011, he suffered a Lisfranc injury that halted his early success.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News interviewed new head coach Dennis Allen last week. Allen assured that McFadden is fully healthy now, and he believes that the explosive running back definitely has the ability to be a workhorse ball-carrier who totes the rock 25 to 30 times a game.
That news isn’t just good for fantasy football owners but also for Carson Palmer.
In seven games last season, McFadden averaged 5.4 yards per carry and 8.1 yards per catch. Those are valuable numbers that were sorely missed once he started missing time.
In 2012, Palmer should have his featured back healthy and ready to go. And all those screen passes and check-downs that Greg Knapp will sprinkle in the play-calling should be put to good use with McFadden’s ability to gain yards after the catch.
Heyward-Bey had a terrific season in 2011, catching 64 balls for 975 yards and four touchdowns. Of those 64 receptions, 44 were for first downs meaning just about 69 percent of his catches moved the chains.
Quickly emerging as the passing game’s go-to guy, Heyward-Bey will look to improve on those already strong numbers and become a third-down weapon for Carson Palmer.
The Raiders also have some dynamic field-stretchers in Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, the latter of whom exploded during his rookie campaign last year. Moore’s 18.7 yards-per-catch average is impressive, and it’s a safe bet that the offense will continue to utilize his deep speed in Greg Knapp’s new offense.
This trio will be the heart and soul of the receiving corps moving forward, but don’t forget about Louis Murphy and the rest of the quality depth at the position.
Murphy has proven to be productive, but he was inconsistent in 2011. The Raiders also added rookie Juron Criner in the draft and have Eddie McGee, both of whom will look to impress in camp.
Palmer has a young foundation of hard-workers at his disposal, and he should be able to develop some chemistry with all of them with a full offseason.
Speaking of a full offseason, the Raiders—like every other team—will obviously look to use the extra time that was taken away by the lockout last year to their advantage.
But that time is especially valuable to teams with new quarterbacks, new coaches or new systems.
The Raiders have all of the above.
Yes, Palmer came to Oakland midway through last year, but he’s essentially starting over with Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp (and GM Reggie McKenzie) steering the ship now.
Along with learning a new playbook and establishing familiarity with his teammates, Palmer is already working hard to refine his mechanical skills to better suit the offense.
According to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle via Twitter, Palmer “is working hard on his footwork this offseason,” presumably in an effort to fully prepare himself for Greg Knapp’s particular style of play-calling.
The preparation speaks to Palmer’s professionalism and work ethic, as he’s proving to the younger guys that even the little things count. Knowing he’ll be running more play-action passes and making more quick movements in the pocket, he’s adapting his mechanics to better fit the offensive system.
By taking initiative and already focusing on the organization’s long-term goals, Palmer is showing that he is the leader of this offense.
The new regime in Oakland hopes to establish a new, long-lasting standard of playing disciplined football, and with Palmer leading by example hopefully the younger guys can follow suit.
While the Raiders’ offensive line may not be the strongest unit across the league, Greg Knapp’s new zone-blocking scheme should help.
Successful teams play to their strengths, and Knapp’s system will do just that along the offensive line. The zone running scheme should open up plenty of holes for McFadden, who has the burst and speed to make an initial cut and turn it upfield.
Knapp comes over from Houston where he served as the quarterback’s coach in a zone-blocking scheme. Not to discredit Arian Foster in any way, but look what the Pro Bowl runner has accomplished in Houston under that system. The Texans have established a new offensive identity with this system, as they are able to run on anybody.
Oakland hopes to have similar success in order to set up the pass, particularly the play-action pass.
In addition to the system, the Raiders also have some developing talent on the line as laid out by Levi Damien of SilverandBlackPride.com.
Outside, left tackle Jared Veldheer returns on the blind side, and right tackle Khalif Barnes hopes to improve on his penalties.
On the interior, center Stefen Wisniewski has an opportunity to show why he’s the long-term answer in the middle. Cooper Carlisle moves from right guard to left guard, and he is a veteran of the zone-blocking scheme, per Damien. Finally, the Raiders added free agent Mike Brisiel who will plug in at right guard. Knapp is familiar with Brisiel from Houston.
The Raiders hope that Knapp’s system will make the running game even more dangerous and the passing game more unpredictable. If so, Palmer should have better overall protection and more time in the pocket.