Last season, the Oakland Raiders made a move that shocked the NFL. With the team barely hanging onto a division lead at 4-2 and with the news that QB Jason Campbell could be out for a significant time because of a broken collarbone, the Raiders traded two high draft picks to acquire Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Palmer struggled in his first season with the silver and black. In ten games with the Raiders in 2011, Palmer threw for 2,753 yards with 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He and the Raiders ended up losing the division lead and eventually missing the playoffs altogether.
This off-season was his first with the Raiders. Palmer needed to be able to get accustomed to a team that had many young receivers, a star running back, and a rookie head coach. But this team was built for Palmer. The Raiders offense is built to play vertically, that is, they have a lot of speed on the offensive side of the ball.
So far this season, Palmer has thrown for 1,732 yards with 7 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Palmer threw four interceptions in one game last season. He is on pace to break a career high in passing yards this season (on pace for 4,619 yards). Have the Raiders found their quarterback to lead them back to the playoffs, somewhere they haven’t been since former-Raider Rich Gannon retired? I think they have.
Gannon did not struggle that much in a Raiders’ uniform, but he did lead the Raiders to an 8-8 season in his first year with them. Gannon was a different type of quarterback in a different type of offense when he was with the Raiders. But Palmer posses something that Gannon did not have, that is, a star running back and a fullback that could play vertically. Darren McFadden is a huge step above Charlie Garner and Marcel Reece is a huge step above Jon Ritchie. Both of these players need to stay healthy if the Raiders are to return back to the playoffs.
Does most of the blame for a 2-4 start fall on Palmer’s shoulders? No.
The Raiders defense is giving up an average of 28.5 points per game and have given up 171 points altogether. They have not given up many yards on defense and they have actually improved on the penalties. The Raiders are actually in the top 10 of least penalized teams in the NFL this season, which is a huge improvement from the record breaking season from a year ago.
The blame for the Raiders 2-4 start is a combination of having a new defensive system put in, a poor special teams effort and the inability to hold on to the football on offense. If the Raiders are going to make the playoffs, which I still do believe, they will need to go at least 7-3 the rest of the way. If not, then Oakland is in for another rough season and another important off-season.
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