There was a time, albeit briefly, when Carson Palmer was an elite NFL quarterback capable of carrying his team on his back. Back in his pro-bowl seasons of 2005 and 2006 with the Cincinnati Bengals there were few quarterbacks in the league that were better at the position than Palmer. Of course, those days are long gone; the only problem is that someone forgot to tell the Oakland Raiders.
After an ugly ending to his tenure in Cincinnati that included talk of retirement, Palmer has done well to continue his career in Oakland. He has had a renaissance of sorts this season, as he has thrown 15 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions and is on pace for a career high in passing yards. However, part of the reason for his elevated statistics this season is the fact that the Raiders are relying on Palmer to carry the team on his back and perform like he did back in 2005 and 2006: something that he’s no longer capable of doing. Palmer has proven that he is still a viable NFL quarterback, perhaps even above average, but the Raiders have failed to surround him with the support necessary to produce a winning team.
It starts with the offensive line, which has allowed Palmer to be sacked 17 times this year and hurried countless more times. It is easily the weakest unit on the team and has shown no improvement whatsoever over the course of the season. As a result, Palmer has had to take some hits and been forced to get rid of the ball quicker than he wants to as the pocket collapses in his face.
Oakland’s problems continue with their running game, which is averaging just 77 yards per game, second to last in the NFL. Making matters worse is the fact that the top two running backs on the depth chart, Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, are both out with injuries. For the season, the Raiders have just three rushing touchdowns, two by McFadden and one coming from Palmer. With no running game, the Raider’s offense has become completely one dimensional, meaning the ball doesn’t move without Palmer being able to complete passes downfield.
Putting even more pressure on Palmer is the Raider’s defense. Oakland’s defense has been atrocious, especially lately, giving up 97 points in their last two games. Essentially, the only chance Oakland has to win nowadays is to outscore opponents in a shootout, and with no running game to speak of that puts all the pressure squarely on Palmer’s shoulders.
To make matters worse, the Raiders continue to show a lack of discipline and maturity. The Raider’s franchise has traditionally been one that has racked up penalty yardage, and this year has been no different, as they have averaged nearly seven penalties a game and lead the AFC West in penalty yards.
With so many issues and so many deficiencies all over the field, the Raiders have become completely dependent on Palmer to win games for them. While Palmer has re-emerged as a capable NFL quarterback this year, he has been forced to carry his entire team this season, which is more than he can handle at this stage in his career. As a result, Oakland is 3-6 and is likely headed for a losing season; until the Raiders can give their quarterback some help, there’s no reason to think that they’ll be able to field a competitive team.