What's Wrong with Carson Palmer's Game, and How Can He Correct It?

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystSeptember 17, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 16:  Carson Palmer #3 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 16, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders are 0-2, the running game is stuck in reverse and the defense isn’t consistently stopping the offense. In the first two weeks, it has been up to Carson Palmer to lead the Raiders.

Although Palmer doesn’t seem like the issue when you look at the other problems the Raiders have, the quarterback always shares the blame when the offense isn’t producing points. Palmer has plenty of problems with his game, and many of the issues are also correctable.

Palmer looks like his is making better decisions, and that’s a testament to the coaching of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, but he still has issues with throwing late, locking onto receivers and overthrowing his intended receivers. These issues can contribute to incomplete passes, stalled drives, interceptions and fewer points.


Throwing Late

Anticipation is not easy to teach, but the better Palmer sees and understands, the more he will be able to anticipate what will happen before it actually happens. There was a prime example against Miami of Palmer’s hesitation, and combined with a McFadden drop, it cost the Raiders four points.

Throwing late can have all kinds of unintended consequences. Palmer might have to rush a throw, and it might not be accurate, leading to a loss of yards after the catch. The defender can also close ground and break up or intercept the pass. Obviously, hesitation can also lead to sacks.

It’s 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Palmer is going to run play action and roll out to his right. This is a route combination that consists of the tight end running to the corner, the wide receiver dragging across the goal line and Darren McFadden running into the flat.

Just a few seconds after the play starts, Palmer has McFadden open. If he flips it to McFadden at this point, he’s probably got a fair chance to get the touchdown, but the defensive back on that side has not committed to cover the tight end in the corner. In other words, it’s just a second too early.

Palmer takes three more steps and pump fakes, but the defensive back is no longer in position to close on McFadden. If Palmer throws it to McFadden instead of pump faking, the Raiders score a touchdown and go up 14-7 heading into halftime. The Raiders would get the ball in the third quarter and perhaps with a touchdown lead would have attempted to get the struggling ground game going.

The hesitation by Palmer means he has to throw it a little harder than he would have had to if he had thrown it to McFadden on time. McFadden was also running out of room, so he had to slow down, and the pass was on McFadden’s back shoulder. Essentially, Palmer’s hesitation made this a more difficult play for McFadden and allowed the defense to collapse.

McFadden may have still scored if he makes the catch, but he was slowing down and the defense was collapsing, so it was no guarantee. If the pass was thrown earlier, McFadden would have scored the easy touchdown.

Palmer will look at this on film and realize he didn’t need to pump fake, the defensive back was plenty deep for him to hit McFadden for the touchdown. Next time, Palmer will read the defensive back and realize getting the ball to McFadden early is a better option than getting it to him late.



Overthrows are a particularly dangerous problem for any quarterback. An overthrow can be intercepted and usually gives the defensive back an opportunity for a big return.

It’s hard to know what the quarterback needs to do to correct the issue. For Palmer, getting more comfortable with his wide receivers could limit his overthrows. Denarius Moore missed most of training camp, the entire preseason and the first game. Derek Hagan was recently signed, and the Raiders have two rookie wide receivers.

Perhaps the only receiver that is experienced and should have chemistry with Palmer is Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Palmer has also overthrown him as well. If it’s a mechanical issue, it can usually be corrected in practice, but that was not the case on his overthrow of Moore in the first quarter.

This throw comes on first down, which means the miss here puts the Raiders in a more difficult position on second and third downs. Luckily of the Raiders, Mike Goodson would turn a short pass into a 64-yard touchdown on the next play.

If there is a mechanical issue, I can’t see it. I’m no quarterback expert, but it doesn’t look like Palmer is over-striding or anything blatantly obvious that could be impacting his throws. Palmer has all day to throw, so pressure certainly had nothing to do with the overthrow.

Moore looks like he is in the right position. Based on the trajectory of the pass, Moore would have had to be five yards deeper for the throw to be on target.  Had the defensive back behind Moore been cheating to his left, he might have had an easy interception off of Moore’s fingertips. The overthrow also forced Moore to stop and leap for the pass instead of catching the pass and trying to slip past the deep defender.

This particular overthrow only cost the Raiders a down, but next time they might not be as lucky.


Locking onto Receivers

Late in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins knew the Raiders were going to pass. The Dolphins also knew that the Raiders were going to try to get the ball to Moore in hopes that he can make a big play.

It’s 2nd-and-15, and Moore is going to run a simple 10-yard dig route.

Palmer locks onto Moore from the start, and he was obviously his No. 1 read. The pressure is coming, but Palmer has a good pocket and could have looked off the safety to his left, knowing he wanted to come back to Moore.

The safety gets a great jump, because Palmer never looked away from Moore.  Unless Moore sees the safety cutting in front of him, he doesn’t have a chance to contest the pass.

It’s intercepted, and if the defender doesn’t trip and fall, he had a very good chance at a return. Moore was partially to blame here, because he was fading away from Palmer instead of running straight down the line. If Moore runs straight down the line, he gets immediately tackled by the safety or the safety breaks up the pass.

It’s a relatively simple correction for Palmer to make. Palmer just has to quickly glance at one of his other receivers before coming back to his primary option, and that can be coached and perfected in practice. Palmer is a veteran and seems to be making better decisions—the next step is to start avoiding the other mistakes that can cause interceptions and hurt his team.