Palmer looks for consistency in second start
AP Sports Writer
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – At times in his first start for Oakland, Carson Palmer showed just why the Raiders gave up so much to acquire him in the middle of the season.
He threaded a 40-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to a well-covered Marcel Reece, connected on a pretty 18-yard score to Jacoby Ford, and got a ball in between a few defenders to T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 28-yard gain.
The problem for Palmer and the Raiders is that along with those jaw-dropping throws were three more that ended up in defenders’ hands for interceptions.
The task now during this short week of preparation is to eliminate as many of those mistakes as possible without compromising the big-play ability the Raiders (4-4) will need when they visit the San Diego Chargers (4-4) on Thursday night.
“I really think the sky is the limit for this passing game,” Palmer said. “We have some young talented receivers that are hungry and want to be good. We got a taste of what we can do, and we need to keep expanding on it, keep getting better at it.”
Palmer has been with the Raiders for only three weeks since starter Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and has compared this stretch to cramming for a final exam.
The Raiders paid a high price for Campbell, sending a 2012 first-round pick and a second-rounder in 2013 that could become a first if Oakland makes the AFC championship game one of the next two years to get Palmer.
So far, the results haven’t paid off. He had just three practices before making his debut in a 28-0 loss to Kansas City on Oct. 23, throwing three interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
He then had the bye week to try to get up to speed and a full week of preparation before facing Denver. He went 19 for 35 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and three more interceptions in a 38-24 loss.
“It’s a combination of him understanding players,” coach Hue Jackson said. “Sometimes you have trust in a guy and you think a guy can maybe make a play that maybe you’re not sure he can yet. And two, just playing, continuing to play. It’s something we have to address. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. We’re going to do a better job of taking care of the ball. That’s the key to our championship.”
The Raiders had high hopes of winning the division when they started the season 4-2. But the back-to-back division losses have tempered those even though Oakland is tied for first with San Diego and Kansas City.
“You go out and win on Thursday night and it’s a great feeling again,” Palmer said. “You have a chance to be on top of the division, but you have a chance to get a win and feel good about your team and just keep trucking through the season. I’m extremely excited about what we can be. I think the future is bright.”
Palmer’s up-and-down game was extremely unusual. He joined Ken Stabler and Jim Plunkett as the only Raiders quarterbacks since the 1970 merger to throw for at least three scores and three interceptions in the same game. Both Stabler (1976) and Plunkett (twice in 1983) did it in Super Bowl-winning seasons.
The Raiders have a lot of work to do if this season can even come close to matching those. If Palmer can improve as much from Game 2 to Game 3 as he did between his first two games, it would go a long way to achieving those goals.
He completed four passes for at least 25 yards – tying for the most for Oakland in a game since 2005 – with the long touchdown to Reece being the most memorable as his comfort level grew astronomically from his first game when he knew only about 15 plays.
“When you first get here and you hear the language of the offense and just trying to figure out how you’re doing things, my head was spinning,” Palmer said. “Obviously, information overload. But I’ve picked it up extremely fast. Every time I step on the field for practice I feel more comfortable, more confident. And now that I’ve got a game under my belt – a real game, a full game – Thursday can’t be here fast enough.”
Notes: RB Darren McFadden (sprained right foot) has not practiced since getting injured Oct. 23 and is unlikely to play. … DT Richard Seymour (ankle), S Michael Huff (right ankle), T Khalif Barnes (shoulder) and C Samson Satele (knee) also didn’t practice, although Barnes and Satele both said they will play. MLB Rolando McClain (left ankle) was limited.