Throughout the week, there have been a number of stories posing the question: Will Carson Palmer start for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs? This is not surprising considering the fact that there are a number of reasons to believe that he could start, as well as to believe that he would not start. However, most of these stories have only scratched the surface of a more intriguing question: Should Carson Palmer start against the Chiefs? Let's take a look at the positives and negatives to starting Carson Palmer less than a week after he was traded to the Raiders.
First the negatives. I see two potential negatives to starting Palmer this weekend. The first is the rist of poor play, the second is the risk of injury.
The poor play aspect of things does not concern me. There is no way that Palmer has learned the entire playbook, terminology and formations of the Raiders offense in a short week like this. In addition, Palmer has admitted that he has not thrown as many balls recently as he wishes he had. Those two factors lead to the possibility of Palmer having a below average game and possibily throwing a few picks.
The reason this does not worry me is two fold. First of all, I believe that Carson Palmer at 70% is still better than Kyle Boller. I think that Kyle Boller has just as high a likelihood of having a poor game and throwing picks even though he has been in the system for two years. In addition, Hue Jackson and Al Saunders are good, smart coaches. If Palmer does start, I presume it will be with a very limited passing offense suited towards limiting turnovers and playing to Palmer's strengths.
The injury issue, on the other hand, is very worrysome. If Palmer gets hurt, the Raiders will be in a very bad position. Palmer has stated that he is not yet in football condition. This is something you hear often from football players. They claim to be in good shape, but not game shape. While i understand what they mean, I think that this is a bit over played when it comes to a quarterback who is a pure pocket passer and not a scrambler. In addition, I would again trust Hue Jackson to let Palmer know that if he sees any kind of pressure in the pocket, he should take the Peyton Manning route and fall to the ground before anyone can hit him and take him to the ground. However, despite all of this, there is still the risk of an injury due to a lack of fitness that makes starting Palmer a scary prospect.
Now for the positives of starting Palmer this weekend. As I see it, there are two big positives to giving Palmer the start. First, it gets him back into the swing of playing in the NFL sooner and against an inferior opponent at home. Second, it gives Palmer an game time opportunity to build chemistry with his new receivers. As we all know, Palmer sat out the first six games of this season and did not play at all in the preseason. No matter how many 7 on 7 or 11 on 11 drills you run, nothing can simulate the experience of playing in a real game, except playing in a real game. The home game against the Chiefs is one that the Raiders should win regardless of who is at quarterback. For that reason, it is a great game to let Palmer get his feet wet again.
Now, more importantly, the chemistry aspect. Finding success with a passing game is about more than just finding a quality quarterback, quality recievers and throwing them on the field. Football is the ultimate team sport. Unlike in other sports, everyone on the football field is working in relation to those around them on every play. As a result, while it is always important for teammates to be on the same page, one of the most crucial aspects of team play in football is the need for receivers and their quarterback to be on the same page. Getting to the point where a receiver and a quarterback will know what the other one is going to do with nothing more than a glance at the line of scrimage takes time and patience. The receivers and quarterback need to work ad building that chemistry. Given the fact that Palmer is coming to the Raiders mid season means that it is important for him to get on the same page with his receivers quickly as there are no preseason games to work out the kinks. Every game matters from here on out.
As you can see, there are legitimate reasons to start Palmer, as well as legitimate reasons not to start him. In my opinion, the reasons to start Palmer outweigh the reasons not to start him, and for one key reason; there are steps that can be taken to limit the negative risks while nothing can provide experience besides experience itself.
The Raiders offensive line is playing strong and the Raiders have a great running game. For these reasons, Jackson will be able to call the game in a manner that will limit the risk of Palmer getting hurt or turning the ball over. On the other hand, as I said earlier, there is nothing that can prepare a player for playing in an NFL game, except playing in an NFL game. In addition, nothing but time and repitition will build the chemistry between Palmer and his receivers.
It is for these reasons that I believe the smart decision is to give Palmer the start against Kansas City despite the circumstances surrounding the situation. Now all that is left to see is if Hue Jackson agrees with me.