Chiefs vs. Raiders: What Oakland Fans Should Expect from Carson Palmer's Debut
The first question that many have asked since the Raiders signed Carson Palmer is: will he play right away?
Al Saunders has told the media that he believes so, but head coach Hue Jackson has been very non-committal. There are many reasons why he shouldn't and just as many reasons why he should play.
To me, the reasons why he should play outweigh the reasons why he shouldn't play.
Turn the page to see why I believe he will play and how it will play out.
Big Gap Between Palmer and What's There
There is a huge gap between where Palmer is in relation to Kyle Boller and Terrell Pryor. While Boller showed Raider Nation what he can do in a relief appearance last year and last Sunday, Pryor is just too green.
From a perception is reality perspective—Raider Nation was scared to death of going 5-11 again when Jason Campbell first went down. All of the sudden, the Raiders bring Palmer to the table and the hopes of Raider Nation are up again.
The two-time Pro Bowler has had some down years of late, but last year was a bad year for Palmer and it was better than Boller's best year. Boller's best year was in 2004 as he threw for 2,559 yards, 13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 70.9.
Last year was a down year for Palmer as he threw 3,970 yards, 26 touchdowns, 20 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 83.6.
Who would you rather have in your huddle?
Better Than the Injured Starter
Palmer isn't just way better than the quarterbacks left with the Raiders—he's way better than Jason Campbell too. Again, we can go back to last year, a down year with Palmer having a bum elbow, and he's still better than Campbell.
Last year, Campbell threw for 2,387 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a quarterback rating of 84.5. If you project that over 16 games, it comes out to 3,182 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
That's scarcely better than the 3,160 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions the Raiders threw for as a team last year. With those totals, combined with the Raiders' running game, the Raiders offense was No. 10 in total offense and No. 6 in scoring.
If you put up Palmer's numbers from last year, a year that his elbow hung together by a thread, the Raiders would have been No. 4 in total offense and No. 2 in scoring. That would have done the Raiders a whole lot of good as they lost five games by eight points or less.
He surely would have connected on more deep balls, as Campbell connected on only 19 percent of his throws over 20 yards. Bad elbow and all, Palmer connected on 29 percent of his throws over 20 yards.
Also, Campbell missed guys who were more wide open than what Palmer had last year.
All this is proof that 75 percent of Palmer is better than 100 percent of Campbell.
Palmer Healthy Now
You have to trust Jackson in this situation because he brought one-time, up-and-coming left tackle Jared Gaither into Raider Nation to see what he has. Jackson ended up passing on him because he didn't feel he was ready to play, and that ended up being the case as Gaither is now a Kansas City Chief and he still has yet to play.
Palmer is from, and has been working out in, Southern California all year. Jackson is from Southern California himself, and I'm sure he has guys who can easily go take a look at Palmer and tell Jackson the deal.
One of those guys is T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who Jackson coached for four years with Palmer in Cincinnati. In a phone interview I heard on NFL Network, Houshmandzadeh said, "I threw with him before last year but he wasn't zipping it like he used too. I thought he was hurt. This year, oh man, it's about as good as I've ever seen him. He's healthy. He's throwing like the Carson of old."
The consensus among the media and his teammates is the ball is exploding out of his hand in practice. So, physically, he is as ready as he can be without being hit by nasty defensive linemen.
But is he mentally ready to play?
More Athletic Than You Think
The fact that Palmer is healthy now means that more than the arm and accuracy he was known for is back. In college, he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash which is very athletic for a quarterback—especially his size.
Palmer is a mobile quarterback—just as much as "Big" Ben Roethlisberger—so he can make some things happen out of the pocket. When you have multiple ligament tears, you can come back and play the next year with a brace, but it takes years to get the mobility you had back again.
I know this from experience.
Palmer's knee was damaged in 2006, and he's had enough time to get that mobility back. Jackson said of Palmer at a post-practice press conference, "He looked like a big, pretty, athletic quarterback that can throw."
I think all of Palmer is back.
He Knows the Offense
I laugh every time I hear people say, "I don't know how he's going to pull it off because it's a different offense." One, I've already heard Marshall Faulk on NFL Network say the verbiage is the same as they used together in Cincinnati.
Two, Jackson was Palmer's offensive coordinator at USC and I'm sure he still uses stuff from back then. I just can't see Palmer not being able to play because he couldn't pick up the offense fast enough.
I'm sure Jackson will find some things that Palmer can do in there.
He's not going to have to throw that much anyway.
Palmer is Jackson's guy, as he knows Palmer more than he knows anyone in the NFL. Jackson recruited Palmer out of high school and, as I mentioned before, he was Palmer's offensive coordinator at USC.
What this means to me is that he knows Palmer so well, he can just look at his body language and tell what kind of game he can call. After a season with Campbell, he still doesn't know what he can and can't do with him.
All great coaches can tell what they can do with their quarterback by their first week of practice and pregame warm-up. That's why Palmer is a Raider, as I believe Campbell's injury was Jackson's opportunity to sell Palmer to the Raiders.
You can tell he was never sold on Campbell or Boller, as he talked them up because he had to. It's easy to see the genuine elation on Jackson's face ever since he got his man.
He's always wanted Palmer.
Planned for More Than You Think
As I already said that Jackson wasn't sold on Campbell, I think he went to Al Davis about Palmer when the lockout ended. But Davis had faith in Campbell and he wasn't going to make a move without seeing Campbell first.
I think he even went to Davis about Campbell again after the Patriots game. Jackson knew that he had a team that could do it right now if they had a quarterback who could shoot it out with teams like the Patriots, if need be.
Of course, Davis turned it down, wanting to see Campbell get a full opportunity to develop. Davis had to know he could die soon, and I'm sure he went through everything he would want to happen in every possible scenario.
I can even see a scenario where Davis told Jackson to go ahead and make the move if Campbell got hurt. Davis didn't do everything he did in the game of football by not being prepared for any situation possible.
There really had to be something behind this, because his son Mark and Amy Trask allowed this to happen. I don't know what the rules are with coaches contacting retired players from other teams, but Palmer had to know the deal.
Jackson could have easily told Houshmandzadeh to tell Palmer to stay ready throughout the season. I'm not buying that he's been on the couch because he gave up on the idea he would play again.
Jackson has sent players like Mario Henderson packing because they were out of shape.
Opposing Game Plans
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With Campbell, opposing teams could simply load the box and dare Campbell to beat them like the Patriots did in the second half. Actually, the Patriots didn't stop McFadden—the Raiders just stopped giving him the ball because they fell behind on the strength of Campbell's interceptions.
But they still dared Campbell to beat them and he just couldn't do it. Teams will not do that so much with Palmer in the fold, as his name alone will make defensive coordinators prepare for him.
They are going to prepare as if Palmer is in 2005-2007 form because it can get ugly fast if they don't. This will make it much easier to run the ball, which in turn will make it easier to pass.
This is going to be one unstoppable offense.
How It Plays out Sunday
Just because I believe he is ready to play, doesn't mean I think he's going to throw for 400 yards Sunday. The Raiders will shrink the game plan a bit for him, but there will be enough in it to help the Raiders win.
What I hope and think Jackson is going to do, is go deep early in the game—maybe even the first play. That sends a message to the Chiefs that the Raiders are going after them even with a newly arrived quarterback.
If he connects, it will be a big confidence booster for Palmer and the Raiders. But even if he misses, it will be a near miss and it will scare the Chiefs defense to death.
That will take a man or two out of the box and make it easier for the Raiders to mostly run the football while Palmer gets comfortable. After McFadden has his way with their defense, the Chiefs will get tired of getting run all over and stack the box again.
A more comfortable Palmer will then start connecting against one-one-one coverage as the game goes on. The Chiefs are ranked No. 17 against the pass and No. 21 against the run so they will likely stop neither.
The Raiders will win the game 34-17.
Palmer will finish the game 12-for-20 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Jackson is going to have his Irish coffee and figure that he might as well start Palmer Sunday. If he doesn't, Palmer is going to be in there soon after Kyle Boller does...Kyle Boller.
Jackson loves to run the ball, but not that much—he has just had to more than he wants, because the best quarterback he's had with the Raiders is a game manager. Campbell is that guy out with injury, and if he can't open his playbook for Boller, he'll figure he might as well go with Palmer.
It is the Chiefs and they can't stop the run, so Palmer won't have to do too much and the Raiders should win. This will get Palmer's feet wet again then he has a bye-week and the Broncos are up after that.
Then comes the showdown with the division-leading Chargers and Palmer should be sharp by then.