Oakland Raiders: 5 Reasons Carson Palmer Will Return to Pro Bowl Form in 2012

Dan Gigliotti@@dangigliottiCorrespondent IAugust 8, 2012

Oakland Raiders: 5 Reasons Carson Palmer Will Return to Pro Bowl Form in 2012

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    To say Carson Palmer did not have an ideal start to the 2011 NFL season with the Oakland Raiders is like saying Brendan Fraser made a bad movie or eight.

    Palmer has been in the league for 10 years. I know, I did a double-take when I saw that in his player profile too. The first two of those years was spent riding the bench. Half of the 2011 season was spent at home playing checkers and eating Cheez-Its.

    His first game action came in the third quarter of a game in which Kyle Boller threw three picks through the first possession in the second half of a blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at home. By the way, Boller in that game proved he has less game than any of those dudes from the VH1 television show “The Pickup Artist.” What a pathetic show.

    The rest of the season, Palmer played formidably, ending the year with a 80.5 Quarterback Rating. Respectable, all things considered.

    Now, with an entire offseason to prepare—to master Dennis Allen’s playbook and mesh with his skill players—there is no reason why Palmer cannot regain the form he had in 2006 & 2007, when he won the Pro Bowl MVP and set Cincinnati Bengals franchise records in completions (376) and yardage (4,131).

    In fact, there are plenty of reasons he will.

Fresh Start with a New Coach

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    Before joining the Raiders, Palmer didn’t pick up a football for eight months. Unbelievable.

    His mechanics were off. He wasn’t able to readjust to the speed of the game. He had no chemistry with any of his receivers. And, though he had played under then head coach Hue Jackson when he was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, he had to learn an entirely new playbook.

    Palmer will now have an opportunity to start from scratch by mastering a new playbook, which isn’t a bad thing. A new coach and new general manager will mean a new beginning for an Oakland franchise that has been struggling to find a winning identity for the better part of the last decade.

    Palmer will embrace the opportunity to be a center-piece in a franchise seeking to regain its former glory, now with Dennis Allen as the new head coach.

The Best Offense Is a Good Defense... and Running Game

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    Former Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen’s scheme and style of play is historically typical of the Raiders’ and conducive to quarterback efficiency.

    With Allen’s focus on shutting down his opponents along with Oakland’s proficient ground game, Palmer will certainly have a fresh chance to revitalize his once-promising career.

    The Raiders are characteristically one of the top running teams in the league each season, lessening the pressure Palmer might have to be the focal point of the offense.

    Last season, they finished seventh in the league in rushing yards per game (131.9) and there is no reason they won’t continue to put an emphasis on the run in 2012.

    Palmer can enter huddles more relaxed, knowing he can settle in and hand the ball off to backs like Darren McFadden, who will eventually wear down defenses and keep them honest.

    Not to mention, a running back who can gain yards after the catch on screens, short routes and dump-offs makes every quarterback look All-Pro.

Down with the King

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    Run DMC led the league in rushing yards before going down with Lisfranc injury in Week 7. What was believed to be a moderate injury turned into one that kept fans wondering each week whether or not he would be on the field come game time and ultimately kept him out for the entire season.

    Reports say that McFadden is poised to shake last year’s season-crushing foot injury and once again thwart defenses in a similar fashion as to the way he began the 2011 season.

    Sure, Rev Run has missed at least three games in each of his first four seasons in the league (19 total games). But when McFadden manages to stay healthy in 2012, he will run roughshod over the entire league.

    Can’t you just picture Palmer and McFadden in shell-toed Addidas and Kangol hats in the endzone performing “Walk this Way?”

Turning over a New Leaf

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    A commitment to the ground game puts more pressure on opponents to stop the run, slowing the tempo of the game, giving Oakland a better chance of playing without a large deficit, and Palmer less pressure to force throws downfield and turn the ball over.

    More reliance on the running game means less passing from Palmer.

    Less passing from Palmer means fewer opportunities for him to throw interceptions.

    Between Palmer’s abysmal start to the 2011 season at home against Kansas City and a disappointing first start against the then-hapless Denver Broncos that surprised Oakland with a 38-24 victory, things did not look promising for the comeback quarterback.

    After throwing six picks in his first two games, Palmer returned to relative normalcy, with 10 interceptions in 230 attempts.

    Let’s face it, the man is turnover prone. He has 32 fumbles in his career, including 13 in 2006. In the last 10 years, he’s had more fumbles than the Bengals have had terrible draft picks. I’m talking about you, Akili Smith.

    Palmer is going to be aggressive and take chances, which is why he threw for 4,000 in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007 while throwing a combined 33 interceptions. It’s a give and take.

    Oakland finished last season seventh in overall rushing attempts with 466 (27.8 attempts per game), without McFadden for the final nine games of the season.

    With Run DMC back in good health, however, and with the Raiders’ commitment to an excellent running game, Palmer won’t have the opportunity to throw picks.

Speed Kills

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    The health and maturity of the Raider receiving unit largely benefit Palmer gaining confidence to begin the 2012 season.

    Three wideouts in particular, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey earned the trust of Palmer in 2011 and could end up being one of the more explosive units in the NFL.

    The legacy of the late-great Al Davis on Bleacher Report" href="http://bleacherreport.com/al-davis" target="_blank">Al Davis—who placed a such a premium on speed that fans questioned his sanity at times—is seen in Oakland’s current, lightning-quick wide receiving core.

    The Usain-Bolt fast Ford, who ran an NFL Combine record 4.126 in the 40-yard dash in 2010, was beginning to evolve into an explosive downfield receiving threat before injuries forced him to miss half of the 2012 season, including six of the last seven games in 2011.

    Meanwhile, Moore played in 13 games as a rookie out of Tennessee, with 10 starts, due to the injuries to Ford. He embraced his role and was surprisingly productive with 618 receiving yards, five total touchdowns and an average of 18.7 yards per catch.

    Heyward-Bey, the player fans worried was JaMarcus Russell 2.0, as in another squandered top 10 draft pick, had a breakout season leading the Raiders with career-high numbers with 974 yards, 64 catches, four touchdowns.

    These players are young, but they appear to be maturing quickly with all of the playing time logged in 2011. Following years of Oakland fans shaking their heads in dismay, this season could prove to restore the type of offense displayed about a decade ago when MVP quarterback Rich Gannon led the Silver and Black to a Super Bowl on the heels of a prolific offense.

    This time, with Palmer at the helm.


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