Originally published on SBReport.net on July 24, 2012
The Raiders are entering another new season with a new defensive scheme, a new offense, a new blocking scheme, as well as a once-again overhauled coaching staff with Dennis Allen as the new Raiders head coach.
With so much change on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders hope that quarterback Carson Palmer will be able to improve on his play from a season ago. Although he only played in 10 games in the 2011 season, Palmer showed signs of still having the attributes that enabled him to be drafted with the first-overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
Much of the problem Palmer encountered last season was throwing too many interceptions. While he threw 13 touchdowns in his 10 games played, he also had 16 interceptions. Granted six of those interceptions came in the first six quarters he played after being thrown into an offense he hadn't studied much, Palmer will need to make better decisions in 2012.
Palmer's numbers throughout the years indicate that interceptions have always been a problem for the quarterback. In 107 games played, he has thrown 116 interceptions. To put these numbers in perspective, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 38 interceptions in 69 games played; Peyton Manning has thrown 198 in 208 games played, with 28 of those happening in his rookie season; Drew Brees has thrown 146 interceptions in 154 games; and Tom Brady has thrown 115 interceptions in 161 games. The common theme among these five quarterbacks, who are arguably the top five in the game currently, is that they have thrown more less than an average of one interception per game.
The fact is that every interception thrown is an offensive possession lost. In order for the Raiders to have success in the upcoming season, Palmer, and the rest of the offense, need to limit the amount of turnovers.
Palmer did provide glimpses of his capabilities last season, throwing for an average of 275.3 yards per game, good for seventh best in the NFL. The average also includes his first game he played as a Raider, when he only played for one half against the Kansas City Chiefs and threw for 116 yards.
In an attempt to improve his chemistry with his receivers, Palmer reportedly hosted practices in the offseason with his receivers in attendance to help improve his timing and chemistry with his receivers. The added chemistry is necessary as the team attempts to learn new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's West Coast Offense.
With the exception of recently traded wide receiver Louis Murphy, Palmer's receiver corps has remained the same for the most part. Starters Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore are returning, as well as a healthy Jacoby Ford.
One weapon that Palmer will have this year that he didn't have last year is Oakland's star running back Darren McFadden. McFadden injured his foot in the first quarter of a game against the Chiefs on Oct. 23, the same game that Palmer entered the game in the second half. This means that McFadden and Palmer have yet to play a snap together, other than in practice.
Having McFadden on the field will give Palmer yet another home-run threat and will help relieve him and the passing game, but it will remain important for McFadden to stay healthy and on the field, something he has not been able to do in his career.
One thing Palmer will likely do more under Knapp's offense that did not happen much under Hue Jackson's offense is the utilization of the tight end position.
Knapp's offense always seems to use a lot of two tight end sets, which should incorporate the Raiders young trio of tight ends: Brandon Myers and second year players David Ausberry and Richard Gordon. Although they're young and unproven, the Raiders tight ends can be valuable to Palmer.
Ausberry has been running with the first-team offense for the most part during this offseason's workouts and has made many spectacular catches. It is expected that the three tight ends will platoon until someone earns the right for more snaps.
If there is one thing you can't doubt about Palmer is that he is a leader in the locker room. Palmer brings great leadership skills to a young Raiders team and has demonstrated these skills throughout the offseason. Palmer has been seen during OTAs calling his receivers or tight ends over to him after they make a mistake with Palmer either explaining what went wrong, or giving them positive reinforcement.
With a full offseason with his offense, it will be interesting to see if Palmer can return to being one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Regardless, Palmer is confident that the Raiders are not rebuilding, but are actually ready to win right now. Palmer recently told NBC Sports that he believes the Raiders are a "playoff team" this year. If the Raiders are to make the playoffs, they need Palmer to cut back on the turnovers and help lead this offense to a productive year.