If the Raiders end their nearly decade-long playoff drought, they will need to rely on the experience of the few who have been there before.
Thirteen-year veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour will need to play composed in his starting role on what should be a much-improved defense. The golden legs of both Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler are essential to the battle of field position, which has become an overlooked part of today’s game.
Palmer, however, is undoubtedly the single most important veteran because of the position he plays. Thus far in the preseason, he is proving that just because a player is a veteran doesn’t mean he has learned from his mistakes.
Palmer has been altogether lousy through three preseason games. Hey, it’s the preseason. It doesn’t mean anything, right?
It’s common for a quarterback to show rust in the preseason, with potentially limited snaps in training camp. Palmer is also learning a new playbook under new head coach Dennis Allen.
Still, he continues to throw the same ill-advised interceptions that are characteristic of his play since his time in Cincinnati. He has been outplayed in each of the three preseason games by either backup quarterback Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor.
Palmer’s numbers are atrocious. He has completed just 33 of 56 passes for 321 yards, with four interceptions, no touchdowns and a passer rating of no higher than 53.5 in any game.
Sometimes, the case can be made that a player’s numbers are not indicative of the way they are playing. In this circumstance, Palmer might be playing worse than his numbers suggest.
In true Palmer fashion, the 10-year veteran quarterback is forcing the ball downfield into coverage. His receiving corps is probably the fastest in the league, but even they haven’t been able to catch up to Palmer’s erratic long ball.
In Palmer’s defense, he hasn’t had a formidable ground attack to help shoulder the offensive load. Unfortunately for him, injuries and a lack of production will likely continue to put pressure on the veteran signal-caller to be more productive through the air.
Injuries to Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson have kept the Raiders from flourishing this offseason, as originally hoped for by Greg Knapp and the Raider coaching staff. In limited play, Darren McFadden looks sharp, but his recent history of injuries has the potential to create a volatile situation in the Oakland backfield if he succumbs to another ailment.
That leaves Lonyae Miller with a fighter’s chance for a roster spot. Miller has been the top rusher during Oakland's preseason not named Pryor, with 106 yards in three games. Still, the second-year back out of Fresno State averaged 3.12 yards per carry.
This does not bode well for Palmer.
Who is the most important offensive player to the Oakland Raiders this season?
His biggest asset going in to this season, other than having a full offseason to prepare, is the help of one of the best ground attacks in the NFL. With the running unit’s production in question, Raider fans should be worried about the adverse effect it will have on Palmer’s production.
Prior to the Raiders’ most recent cuts this morning, they had 77 players on their roster, averaging less than four years of NFL experience. Excluding all rookies on the roster, the average time of service was less than five years.
Oakland currently has 14 players on its active roster who have played in the league for more than five seasons. Three of those players, including tackle Khalif Barnes (eight seasons) and guard Carlisle Cooper (13 seasons), are on the offensive side of the ball. That leaves Palmer as the lone skill player on offense with extended NFL experience.
Palmer will be looked at to lead his unit vocally, in the locker room and in the huddle. Moreover, he will need to lead by example with his play on the field.
Palmer must be a premium on ball security, otherwise his defense will wear down and he will find himself facing large deficits and forcing the ball downfield more than usual.
Whatever the outcome, Oakland’s quarterback play will be directly correlative to its success in the standings.