The Oakland Raiders have heard all the chatter about Carson Palmer.
That the Oakland quarterback is over the hill at 32. That he’s an interception machine. That he’s no longer the quarterback he was in his early years in Cincinnati when he ranked as one of the NFL’s elite passers.
And the Raiders aren’t buying any of it.
As the Raiders prepare to open their 2012 season Monday night against the San Diego Chargers, the team has put its trust in Palmer to lead a revamped offense under coordinator Greg Knapp and head coach Dennis Allen.
“Carson is very motivated, he is very determined and he is very capable,” senior offensive assistant Al Saunders told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur recently. “You put those things together and you’re looking at a special, special year. It’s been a long time since this football team has won, and I really believe that Carson feels he can be the leader to do that.”
The theory is that Palmer, with a full offseason to get familiar with the offense, his teammates and coaches, can regain the form he had in his early years with the Bengals, before an injury sent him off course. And, that with a healthy Darren McFadden at running back, the Raiders’ offense can be balanced – with no undue load placed on Palmer’s shoulders.
Allen and his coaching staff believe Palmer can regain his form based on what they saw late last season – once he settled into his job after being acquired from the Bengals, where he was a holdout – and during this offseason.
“This is a quarterback-driven league,” Allen told Tafur. “For you to sustain success in this league you’ve got to have a good one, and I think we do. So yeah, I that gives you a lot of confidence.”
Palmer has been dogged by interceptions the past few seasons, a problem that can derail any offense. Last season, he threw 16 picks against 13 touchdown passes. The year before, it was 20 interceptions vs. 26 TD passes. Over his past five seasons, Palmer has 89 TD passes but 73 interceptions – a horrible ratio.
Saunders, the Raiders and Palmer all believe those numbers can be reversed. This offseason, Palmer has dedicated himself to improving his footwork and spent time with baseball pitching coach Tom House to work on his throwing mechanics, reports Tafur. House has had success working with other quarterbacks in the past.
At age 32, Palmer is hardly old for an NFL quarterback. He should still be in his prime.
“There are very few better to put the ball in (receivers’) hands at the proper times in the proper way than Carson,” Saunders told the Chronicle. “And if you look at the people that surround him and, the speed and talent that we have, this should be an explosive offense.”
Still, Raiders fans must be concerned. Palmer threw four interceptions in the preseason and didn’t have two of his best wide receivers, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, for any length of time because of injuries, and both remain doubtful for Monday’s opener.
Palmer admits that getting on the same page with his wideouts is imperative.
With opening day approaching, the Raiders are still tinkering with their roster, bringing in veteran wide receivers and tight ends to audition to fill gaps left by injuries – not an encouraging sign for a quarterback who needs the reps with his receivers.
“We need a ton of work together,” Palmer said of Ford and Moore to the Bay Area News Group. “You can never get enough work with a guy.”
Whether those receivers are ready or not Monday, it will be go time for Palmer.
Time to prove the strong-armed former Heisman Trophy winner still has what it takes.
Says Allen: “I don’t have any reservations or any doubts about Carson Palmer.”