Last season the Raiders – led by the ever-confident Hue Jackson – executed the trade of several seasons by acquiring the rights to Carson Palmer for no less than a first and second round pick in the 2012 and 2013 drafts, respectively. Palmer started the season in a rough position, coming in unprepared to play and throwing 3 INTs the next Sunday against Kansas City before cramming as much of the offense as he could the following bye week. With so inauspicious a start, it seemed a worthwhile question to see how he looked at season's end – as a barometer for what he does well and what he does poorly.
I took a look at every offensive play from Week 16 against Kansas City and Week 17 against San Diego to get a sense of how he had grown over the season with the Raiders.
First, an overview:
Palmer ended the year with a very respectable, 60.7% completions, good for about midpoint in the league and in the company of other above average QBs like Matt Ryan (61.3%) and Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning (61%).
Palmer also finished with more INT's than TD passes – a 16/13 ratio. I think there are some mitigating factors, however – including his lack of training camp, not knowing the offense's players, plays, nor vernacular, and stepping in mid-season when most defenses had already gelled. Proof of this comes in the fact that six of his interceptions happened in his first two games. All in all, he showed flashes of what he could bring to the Raiders in the coming years.
One of the concerns when the Raiders traded for Palmer was the velocity of his throws. In 2008, Palmer suffered an elbow injury that eventually was diagnosed as a partially torn ligament and tendon. He had two choices: Tommy John surgery on the elbow or rest it in the hope that the tear would heal well. He chose the latter, simply to rest and hope his arm would fully heal.
The two seasons that followed (2009 and 2010) were some of his worst, statistically. When the Raiders traded for him, he had not put those questions to rest. So, I was surprised that what really jumped out on the tape was how well his arm has responded. Palmer showed rare arm strength and touch on his deep throws. He had an uncanny ability to get both good speed and loft on his throws.
Here is a clip of a throw he made to Denarius Moore in the third quarter in Week 17 against San Diego:
In this clip, Palmer takes a seven step drop, gives a pump fake to freeze the safety, then unleashes a deep bomb that drops right into Moore's outstretched hands where he can accelerate into the catch and continue down the field for a huge play.
In this next clip, which also took place in week 17, the Raiders were at third and goal at about the San Diego three yard line. For this play, the Raiders were lined up in a trips formation to the right of the formation and Michael Bush was in the backfield. This left Heyward-Bey alone split out to the left of the formation. In a situation like this, there are two plays that the DB is worried about from DHB – a slant or an out route. The CB is lined up on DHB's outside shoulder to play the out route and the safety has come up to either play in run support if it comes his way or to take away the slant if DHB comes towards him.
Because the play call is, indeed, an out route to DHB and the CB is playing that route, only a perfectly placed ball will result in a TD, here. Palmer takes a three step drop and delivers a great throw that the CB – who has good coverage – cannot block and drops it right down into DHB's outstretched hands. Only a QB with a really good touch on the ball can make those throws. Palmer has shown that he has that touch.
Not that everything is great about Palmer's game. He clearly had issues with interceptions. There were two main reasons that Palmer threw his INTs, in general. They are exhibited in the next two videos.
In the first video which took place in the first quarter of week 16, Palmer lines up against a five man line of which four rushed the QB.
The pocket collapsed around Palmer and instead of throwing the ball away or taking a sack, he tried to force the pass to Kevin Boss and instead threw it directly to the defense.
Many of the INTs thrown by Palmer were because he was trying to do too much and he ended up throwing to the wrong spot or throwing while being hit. A positive caveat, though: Palmer did seem to respond to Hue Jackson's emphasis on throwing the ball away. There were several notable passes in which he threw the ball away out of bounds in week 17 when he was pressured. A throw-away is infinitely preferable to an INT, and with some coaching Palmer seemed to make this a point of emphasis which is a definite positive.
Most of the remaining INTs were because of the second reason, shown in our next video, which seems to just be poor coverage recognition.
In the play, Palmer takes a drop from under center and throws to the WR who is split out right. But Palmer doesn't correctly read the defense which drops into a zone coverage, and he throws the ball, again, right to a defensive back.
Palmer has been in the league for almost 10 years now. If he's not reading coverages correctly, new coaching or an increased coaching emphasis probably won't help much. What will help is a good scheme and well-designed plays combined with better execution.
The new scheme will come courtesy of Raiders' new/old offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.
To fans' joy and chagrin, Hue was a big believer in taking risks. He liked to call a lot of downfield shots, reverses, and screens. He liked trick plays. Hue's play calling was a very boom or bust mentality. Knapp is a much more conservative play caller. He calls a lot of runs and also runs a lot out of traditional formations like the "I" formation. Because of this, accuracy is going to be very important to success with Knapp. The ball will need to be on the money, as they say.
Palmer does a great job of leading receivers already. The next video shows Marcel Reece flaring out of the backfield left:
Palmer does a really good job of leading him in stride for a modest gain, moving the chains. In general, video showed Palmer being able to put the ball in tight windows and able to lead the wide receivers and backs so that they didn't have to break stride.
That ability to fit the ball into tight windows shows up in this next play, too - a deep pass to Kevin Boss that ended in a TD against the Chargers in week 17.
The clip shows another pleasant surprise that showed up on tape - that Palmer moves very well. He'll never juke and run like Tim Tebow or Michael Vick, but he's not a statue like Drew Bledsoe or Peyton Manning out there, either. He does more than move around in the pocket, though he does that well, too. He can also extend plays and create plays with his legs. I
In this play, Palmer takes a seven step drop and then sees the pocket collapsing around him and simply runs up a few steps where the RG lined up and is able to make the TD throw to Kevin Boss despite the fact that there were four San Diego defenders in the vicinity.
The next clip exhibits more of Palmer's movement skills.
Instead of just moving the pocket, Palmer again shows good pocket awareness by stepping up into an open area when the pass rush is approaching him, but instead of releasing the ball right away he moves along the line of scrimmage to his right and unleashes a great ball to Denarius Moore (who unfortunately drops it). Palmer reminds me of Big Ben in this clip because he holds the ball behind the line of scrimmage and moves laterally until a receiver gets open. That ability to prolong plays until receivers shake their man drives defenses crazy.
If Carson was reminiscent of Big Ben in that last clip, though, the next is vintage Roethlisberger. In the clip, you can see that LB Tamba Hali, 91, is crowding the line of scrimmage on the defense's right side.
At the snap, Hali engages LT Veldheer momentarily, then shoots to his left because LG Wisniewski has been pushed back by the DT. Hali basically uses Wiz and the DT like a pick in basketball on Veldheer, who does his best to pursue but cannot keep up.
Hali bears down on Palmer who is surprisingly able to move to his right and shrug off Hali's rush – no small feat. Palmer holds the ball and runs laterally towards the sideline and draws the D towards him. FB Tonga releases his man and makes his way up field. Palmer hits him in stride and Tonga takes it for a first down. Because of Palmer's ability to move, he's able to turn what looks like a sack into a first down instead.
After years of poor to average quarterback play in Oakland, Palmer looks like the real deal. While the Raider gave up a lot in the trade to acquire him, I can see why Hue liked him.
I thought that Jason Campbell was a good quarterback, but he checked down far too often and his accuracy on deep balls was poor – he consistently mis-targeted receivers who had beaten their man.
Palmer appears to be the best QB that the Raiders have had since Gannon, which is good news for the success of the team. If Palmer can stay healthy and the team continues to develop around him, the Raiders will make a playoff push in 2012.
Follow me on Twitter: @AsherMathews
Carson Palmer was a great pickup by the Raiders. He was expensive, Yes, but he is a top tier quarterback who has the potential to be among the very best in this league. All I ask from his critics is to give him a fair chance. So many people are judging him on half a season of performance, and writing him off as a bad investment. This is just crazy to me, as the guy had no pre-season or training camp, and was asked to take over the starting position after only a week of practice with the team....Peyton Manning would have had difficulties being put in that position...All I say, is that before we (the fans) judge Carson negatively, let's give him at least a full traing camp and preseason, along with a full year under his belt as leader of this team. We gave DHB (3) years to prove himself, how about the Raiders giving Palmer at least (1) full year to do the same...
Great piece! I LOVE that we have Carson Palmer!!!! overpaid, perhaps, but he is a legit top QB. This year he showed his arm is at full strength and 2012 he willl show marked improvement in TD Int ratio to lead us to the AFC West title.
@nilbymouth dislike button :-)
I am one of the very limited few on this site that would like to see Palmer gone so I'm sure most people would like a dislike button!
@nilbymouth If he's willing to come as a back up, he's the best back up we will ever find. I'm not sure he will ever be a legit starter in this league but a West Coast Offense might be his best fit though.
Anyway, I'm sure Reggie's gonna make some really interesting hirings at free agency (and those will be plenty of fun to see).
I really do think he can be a quality starting QB in this league. Like Alex Smith, Campbel had been through more HC and OC in his first couple years in the league that most QB's would have in their entire careers!
I don't think his accuracy is that bad and you could argue Palmer has the same accuracy problems. Plus Campbell has connected on some beautiful long balls and sells the play action so well.
I don't mind the short passes or using the legs at all. It was in these cases that Palmer forced the ball in bad throws and resulted in interceptions. This has always been a fault of Palmers. A big reason I am not a fan of his. Much like I was never a fan of Favre.
@nilbymouth I totally see your point and yet... Jason has some serious accuracy issues to solve. He has the strong arm, but he consistently miss open targets, specially with the deep ball.
He has a concerning tendency to use his legs whenever he doesn't find an open guy. I mean, the guy's 29, he's gonna be 30 by the end of the next season and he had a nasty injury last year. Next time it might be something more serious.
Finally, this guy sometimes have an ugly tendency to throw either really short passes (some of them just short from the 1st down) or really long passes. In some games it just seems like the mid-range passes just get erased from his mind.
Don't get me wrong, he's a really hard worker and a way better option than some of the QB's we've had in the past, but I don't see him as a guy who can win many games for a team.
put dmac behind him and 1 of them is gonna get you. safetys have to stay up and respect the run or play back and get ran over. palmer wil be fine, and we will be fine.
Superb Asher... as Levi says TFDS is in great hands especially with quality of posts like this.
I do believe men and women (but i have never seen women post on here to be honest), that we have a very good QB under centre and as mentioned by @johnL49 the best since Plunckett.
I am extremely excited to see what CP can do with a full preseason. The thing I liked the most about CP in his few games was his adaptation. CP has always been known for having a powerful arm and going long. However, this certainly isn't how DHB plays, he thrives in the short game. CP adapted his style and changed up to the short slants and curls and by game 3 of DHB & CP were in sync with one another and 99% due to CP. He has shown he can now play WCO will be useful.
I believe Gannon and Plunkett are two very good comparisons for Carson... two QBs who never really did much until they were put in charge of a winner. That's exactly how I see Carson - a great QB who was languishing on a team with terrible management.
That said, I do believe he puts a little too much trust in his arm strength at times. At the end of the Lions game he held the ball on that one play forever - until the ball was knocked out of his hands - when there was a RB right in front of him that could have got 5-10 yards closer for the winning FG. Sometimes you take what you can get. But I'm also with Nightmare - I hope we don't go total west coast like we were with Gannon. That dink and dunk game is not worthy of the Silver and Black. We need the deep ball every game - I still believe no matter what kind of offense you run, the first series should always include a go route. Put the fear of god in those DBs now that we have a QB that can wing it again. Nothing better to loosen up the defense for the rest of the game.
I do think he's far more talented than Gannon ever was. Perhaps the biggest flaw I ever found in Carson Palmer's game is his lack of patience. Asher says he has some issues with reading coverage and I can see that, but sometimes it seems to me he reads the coverage, he knows there will be two guys over the reciever and he just doesn't care. He's so confident on his arm strenght and his extreme accuracy that he will just force the throw anyway.
Gannon had the opposite flaw: You had 96 yards of green grass infront of you, less than 20 seconds in the clock, trailing by 4 points and the guy used to throw short to the running back praying to God above for helping Charlie Garner to break 20 tackles. He never tooked any kind of risks, even hen playing safe was the safest way to loose the game.
Now, will Carson Palmer get better next season, I trully hope so. Let's just remember that, just as 6 of his interceptions came in his first two games, comming ut of many months of eating chips infront of the t.v., also a few of his touchdown passes and some of his best plays came when the game was already lost (I'm thinking of those 2 touchdown passes at Miami and the one at Green Bay). He had an awful game at KC before popping out of nowhere to throw that deep ball to Moore an eventually win that game. He's been anything but constant and reliable, and he better starts to be.
@Black_Nightmare I think you assessment is pretty spot on. I personally think Carson will do great with a healthy DMC ( until he gets hurt in week 6 and is out for the season ) and an of season. I'm sure he's working with the receivers as we speak and anyone who's played the game knows how important timing is. I agree with you that his picks came because he thought he could fit the ball in. Sometimes having a strong arm can make you make bad decisions, just ask Farvre. Oh, I don't think Gannon could throw further than 20 yards. A pass to the HB in the flat was a deep bomb for Gannon.Haha
A great breakdown on Palmers' tape. I willgo one step further ,he's the best QB we've had since Plunkett. I liked Gannon' play and hard work,but he doesn't have near the arm that Palmer has. Palmer is much more accurate downfield. I think he will improve greatly this year with a training camp and getting to kno our young recievers. In my opnion,I think ,if everyone stays healthy,we have the best young recieving corps n the NFL. They have speed,good hands,and just need to get on the same page as Palmer. I like all our running backs as well.Hopewe can keep the whole O crew,we will be the most dangerous O in the NFL. Must stop the run and improve in the Defensive backs. Playoffs Here We Come!
Live and Bleed Silver and Black
@johnL49 I agree! Anyone after Plunkett can't even compete. I think Carson might be the most talented QB this team has had since Stabler, but Plunkett was so much of a clutch player and he was a great leader.
Anyway, you threw a Godzila-big if here: "If everyone stays healthy". When I think Chaz 'Crystal' Schillenz was one of the healthiest recievers this team had last season, I just get goosebumps. And please don't let me start with Darren McFadden who just can't stay healthy long enough to show how great he might be.
I hope this offense can perform as well as they are capable of. If they do this is gonna be the best Oakland's Offense in twenty-something years, no question.
There may very well be a team that wants him like the Patriots who could team him up with Woodhead, Vereen and Ridley to keep him fresh. Maybe that is what we need to do though. Have more of a running by committee approach rather than being 95% about McFadden when he's healthy. Have even doses of McFadden, Joines and Bush or another RB signed or drafted (I would love to see BenJarvus Green-Ellis).
I don't think trading McFadden is much of an option. Who is going to give up much for a RB that is often injured? Especially the way teams seem to be instead using mid-late round picks on quality RB talent to draft their starters these days. And anything less than a late first round pick or very early second round pick hardly seems worth the trade.