In the AFC West, the Broncos have added Peyton Manning, the Chiefs are excited about the return of several key players who were injured last season and the Chargers with quarterback Philip Rivers are always dangerous.
Yet Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer says he’s confident his team can be much better than it was in 2011 when it stumbled down the stretch, finished 8-8 and missed a trip to the postseason.
“I think we’re a playoff team,” Palmer told reporters this weekend while playing in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve been at it in OTAs and minicamps and now training camp is around the corner. Guys have been studying hard and it’s go time.
“There is no cushion or a year to get stuff going. We’re ready to come into camp and go out and win as many games as we can.”
The Raiders have a new head coach in Dennis Allen and a new West Coast offense under new coordinator Greg Knapp, and Palmer says he’s excited by the options he’ll have this season.
Running back Darren McFadden is back from an injury last year, there’s a good crop of wide receivers – including emerging second-year standout Denarius Moore – and Palmer and his teammates have had a full offseason to work together and absorb the new system.
Palmer says the Raiders attack could be “exciting.”
“With Darren McFadden on the field and an offensive line that is hungry, they’re going to open up great holes for him,” Palmer told reporters. "And then a lot of speed on the outside, really fast receivers with a lot of play-action stuff. To have a chance to play for Coach Knapp, I’m excited. He’s a very explosive offensive mind and he likes to go after it. He’s not going to hold back.”
Knapp, a former offensive coordinator with the Raiders under Lane Kiffin, has served as quarterbacks coach of the Houston Texans the past two seasons. Knapp was widely praised last season for helping rookie T.J. Yates perform well after quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were injured.
Palmer says he expects the Raiders to be run-oriented, as they were last season when McFadden was healthy.
“With McFadden in the backfield you’ve got to give him his touches. He’s got to get his opportunities because he can put his foot in the ground and get upfield. He can go the distance from anywhere on the field.”
Last season was a rough one for Palmer, who started the season as a holdout in Cincinnati and then was traded in midseason to Oakland and performed erratically.
In 10 games, he completed 199 of 328 throws (60.7 percent) for 2,753 yards and 13 TDs, but was intercepted 16 times and had a quarterback rating of just 80.5, his lowest over a full season since his first year as an NFL starter in 2004.
He described last season to the Reno Gazette as “tough” and “definitely a challenge” but believes Allen has the Raiders on the right track.
“It’s been really seamless,” Palmer told the Gazette. “He’s come in and installed his philosophies and his motto and the way he wants us to think about the game, the way he wants to prepare for games. It’s been really good.”