Oakland Raiders Preseason: What is Carson Palmer's Fault, and What Is Not?
John Doublin – Aug 20, 2012
After yet another lacklustre performance by the Oakland Raiders' offense in Week-2 of the 2012 NFL Preseason, questions have surfaced as to whether or not Carson Palmer can lead the Raiders to where they want to go—a Super Bowl.
Some say yes, that the poor preseason is just that...preseason and that fans shouldn't read too much into the underwhelming performances thus far. Some would argue that injuries to several key players, like Denarius Moore, Stefen Wisniewski and Brandon Myers are hurting the Oakland signal-caller.
Some are saying that the receivers aren't performing and Palmer has no one reliable to throw to. Yet others are calling for Matt Leinart to start—already!
Let's not get carried away.
There is a lot more than one player, (even though that one player occupies the most important position on the field) making mistakes causing the Raiders' offense to struggle out of the gate in 2012. There is vanilla play-calling, a lack of game-planning and distinct lack of intensity from the entire team that are all contributing to weak showings from the Silver and Black offense.
Some of it however, is Palmer's fault. This brings up an interesting question: What is...and what is not Palmer's fault?
Too often people heap all the credit for excellent offensive performances on the quarterback—and of course, all the blame gets laid on the "franchise" player when the team struggles. Neither is correct.
The real truth lies somewhere in the middle.
What is NOT Palmer's fault?
1. It's not Palmer's fault that the entire team, (including Palmer himself) is learning a complicated new offense. The "Zone Blocking Scheme" we hear so much about is being implemented, along with a "West Coast" philosophy.
The blocking up-front is drastically different; the pass protection calls are drastically different; the entire language is completely different from anything Palmer has ever encountered. Adjusting to this takes time. This is why general manager Reggie McKenzie brought in Matt Leinart to back Palmer up.
Leinart played in Houston with this new scheme and new Raiders' offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was his quarterback coach there. This will help Palmer with the transition, but it's still not going to happen over night...or even in a grand total of 15 practices and two preseason games.
Give it time.
2. It's not Palmer's fault that the Zone "Stretch" running play isn't working that well—which eliminates one of Palmer's strengths...the play action pass.
Along with new protection schemes in the Knapp offense comes an entirely new way for the running backs to run the ball. The days of, "this play goes through that, specific hole" are over. The running back has to read blocks differently, and read the line of scrimmage in a totally different way and make his decisions based on completely different information.
This too takes time to learn.
Darren McFadden has run this philosophy before. In his rookie year, Greg Knapp was the Raiders offensive coordinator. McFadden did not catch on to the zone scheme very well and his performance was pedestiran, at best.
However, D-mac is a more experienced and more confident player now. He will figure out how to run the zone stretch eventually, but again—not over night, and not after just 15 training camp practices.
Once the Stretch play is successful, the play action will open up and Palmer will once again be able to use his excellent play action passing skills.
3. It's not Palmer's fault that he is missing perhaps the most explosive play-maker the Raiders have at the wide receiver position, Denarius Moore. When Moore is out, teams can focus on covering the other threats on the field, like Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Moore occupied the opposing safeties and kept them away from the other receivers. This allowed guys like DHB and Jacoby Ford to get open much more easily. This opened up passing lanes and wide open receivers.
With Moore out, those windows are smaller and the other receivers are more closely covered.
4. It's not Palmer's fault that the Raiders don't have an expreienced or dominant tight end to control the middle of the field. With the injury to Brandon Myers, Oakland loses someone that can read the defense and find seems much more regularly than inexperienced men like David Ausberry or Richard Gordon.
Not to knock on Gordon or Ausberry, but they simply don't have the experience to make adjustments on the fly and find the dead spots in coverage like Myers does.
This will come with experience for the young men, but for now, Myers getting healthy will go a long way to helping Palmer out by giving him a big target in the middle of the field.
5. It is not Palmer's fault that the coaching staff didn't do any game-planning whatsoever. No teams do it for the preseason. Normally, a team will enter a preseason game with a set of 20 or 30 specific plays, no more.
If those plays work, great. The team wins. If those plays don't work, well too bad. There is no halftime adjusting or tweaking of the non-existent gameplan. The coaches are trying to evaluate players who may be on the bubble, or they are wanting to put pressure on one or two players specifically to see how they respond.
The preseason is set up to see specific players doing specific things. The coaches need to see exactly what these players can do and the plays they run are intended to make certain guys do specific things. They are not intended to take advantage of the opponent's weaknesses.
For all anyone knows, the "gameplan," could have been to feed Rod Streater as much as possible, no matter what. It woudn't be unheard of, and if that's the case, it would explain why Palmer seemed locked into him and no one else.
When the season starts, game-planning will begin and things will be different.
What IS Palmer's fault?
1. It's Palmer's fault that he seems to make bad decisions, throws into double coverage and turns the ball over a lot. This is nothing new—this has been the knock on Palmer ever since the 2007 season.
He did this in all the games he played in last year, and he seems to be doing it this preseason. Look no futher than the interception on a pass intended for Jacoby Ford against Dallas in Week-1 and the interception in Week-2 versus the Arizona Cardinals.
This is a recurring issue for which only Palmer is responsible.
2. It's Palmer's fault that, this season, he is constantly throwing behind his receivers. Whether it's a mechanics issue, a delivery issue or mental is irrelevant; it's a problem that must be solved.
Although it is Palmer's fault he isn't nearly as accurate as he is touted to be, it will require him getting help, (and being open to criticism) from quarterback coach, John DeFilippo.
3. It's Palmer's fault that he fails to recognize wide open receivers, choosing instead to force the ball to players that are well-covered.
An example of this can be found against Arizona. Palmer threw a pass to Streater that led the rookie receiver into a helmet to helmet hit that drew a penalty, but nearly got the rookie killed.
When the play was replayed, it was clear that David Ausberry was wide open about 15 yards further up field. Why throw the ball to Streater when Ausberry was wide open?
This may have come down to the "game-planning" to test Streater...but, I'm sure the coaches are more interested in testing his ability, not the thickness of his skull.
This isn't new either. This has been an ongoing issue with Palmer that was evident on many occasions last season. Whatever the cause for this, it has to be rectified if the Raiders are going to win.
In Closing: There's an old saying in football: "One bad game is just a bad game. Two bad games is a trend. Three bad games—now, that's a problem."
At the moment, Palmer is on the cusp of being in a trend and having a serious problem. Some of it is not his fault at all, but some of it is. Whatever the case, the Raiders' coaching staff has a lot of work to do if they are going to deliver on the promise McKenzie made to Raider Nation—"A new era of excellence."
Just like every other team in the NFL, success is directly proportionate to the success of the quarterback.
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