BEREA: Whether with the Cincinnati Bengals or the Oakland Raiders, Carson Palmer is Carson Palmer. That is to say he’s an intelligent, strong-armed quarterback who can beat you deep or take his time marching his team down a football field.
An old nemesis who the Browns faced twice a season when he led the Bengals, Palmer ended up with the Raiders last season after his former team, understanding that he was an asset wasting away in “retirement,” relented and traded him for a 2012 first-round draft pick and a conditional second-rounder in 2013.
Now he’s trying to lead the Raiders, one of the NFL’s storied franchises, back to respectability. Given the Raiders’ 3-8 record, identical to the Browns, it hasn’t been easy. The Browns will renew acquaintances with Palmer at 4:25 p.m. today at O.co Coliseum.
“He’s definitely elite. He can still make all the throws. Make all the reads,” said Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown, an 11-year veteran, before the question about Palmer’s skills could even be finished. “It looks like the timing is off a little bit, some [receivers] are not on the spot when he throws the ball, but, yes, he’s definitely still an elite quarterback.”
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson offered the same assessment.
“There’s a lot that goes into a season from a quarterback standpoint,” said Jackson, a seven-year veteran. “A lot of his games he’s been playing from behind, so it’s forced him to do some things that they don’t want to do. ... He can still make those throws and be successful in this league.”
This season, especially in November, hasn’t been kind to the Raiders. They are a team that has gone through a series of coaches in the past decade and appear to be still searching for an identity, one that Palmer, a quarterback with a gun for an arm, appeared to fit.
The defense has put the offense in rough spots, giving up 169 points the past four games, effectively ending any thoughts the Raiders might have entertained of making the postseason.
“We’re 0-0, we have a five-game season. We were fighting for a playoff spot and obviously we fell off that,” Palmer said during a teleconference last week. “I just want to finish this season out strong and see what happens at the end of the year.”
First-year coach Dennis Allen appreciates Palmer’s effort and savvy.
“He stands in there and takes a beating at times, but he’s able to get the ball and put the ball in the right spots,” he said.
But Palmer cannot do it alone. The defense has been deficient, but the offense, which has a new scheme this season, has struggled, too. The Raiders have been without starting running back Darren McFadden for the past three weeks because of a high-ankle sprain and the team is young at wide receiver. That youth shows on film.
“I’d anticipate it’s probably just tough on him because he has a group of young receivers that he’s trying to get up to speed. That’s probably more difficult than anything,” Brown said.
Tight end Brandon Myers leads the Raiders in receiving with 55 catches for 591 yards and three touchdowns. You have to go to the third spot on the statistics list to find a wide receiver — Denarius Moore (36 catches, 604 yards, six touchdowns) and fifth place to find Darrius Heyward-Bey (28 catches, 440 yards and three touchdowns) to find another.
Palmer expressed a high regard for Moore, who has been moved around a lot in the offense, revealing that the 6-foot, second-year receiver is a student of the game who is constantly working to improve, as is the entire receiving corps.
“It’s getting better,” Palmer said of his chemistry with them. “There’s been some growing pains, but it’s always a work in progress. It’s never the way you want it — exactly the way you want it — whether it’s Week One or Week 16. But we’ll continue to work at it.”
Brown is expecting more than a work in progress Sunday.
“He’s definitely going to feel like he can dominate the football game and he’s preached that to his guys all week,” he said. “I expect him to come out and give it a heck of an effort.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.