Join Date: Mar 2006
Re: Bengals vs. Falcons
Don't forget Palmer in Vick matchup
By GEOFF HOBSON
October 27, 2006
Posted: 3:50 p.m.
Palmer has posted an impressive 90.9 passer rating in '06. (Bengals photo)
This week it’s been Michael Vick this and Michael Vick that. He may be faster than a locomotive, but not that as fast as the media fascination. But certainly fast enough to somehow reduce Carson Palmer to a footnote this week.
Carson Palmer? Here’s a guy that makes playing NFL quarterback look so easy that he’s having a Pro Bowl season and people are murmuring if he’s OK.
It looks like Palmer, coming off the best passing season in Bengals history, is so good, he’s spoiled us. He may not be as laser sharp as he was last season, but here’s a guy who has still completed 62 percent of his passes, has thrown 117 straight passes without an interception, has thrown twice as many touchdown as interceptions, and has a 90.9 passer rating, which would be the ninth best in club history.
(And, by the way, is about 17 points better than Mike Vick.)
Heck, maybe he’s spoiled himself.
“I’m doing everything I can to get back to where I was and working in that direction,” said Palmer flatly when asked earlier this week to critique his season.
CARSON PALMER 2006 VS. 2005 (First 6 Games)
Season Att Comp Yds Comp % Yds/Att TD Int Sacked Rating
2005 197 143 1573 72.6 7.98 13 2 8 113.1
2006 196 122 1418 62.2 7.23 9 4 19 90.9
Here’s a guy that hasn’t had the same offensive line for two full games. Here’s a guy that has had his third-down back for just one game, hasn’t had his third receiver for the last three games and has already been sacked as many times as he was all last year with 19.
Let’s see. That’s two more touchdowns, one more yard per pass, and more than 500 yards passing than Vick.
And if Vick has the sixth best winning percentage of active quarterbacks with at least 25 starts at .623 (35-21), Palmer is looming at .600 (21-14).
“When I go to other places,” said national television analyst Solomon Wilcots, “the first guy they want to talk about on the Bengals is Carson Palmer.”
And, oh yeah, he had a major medical procedure over the offseason when he underwent the pro athlete’s version of a heart transplant with reconstructive left knee surgery.
“Before he got hurt, he was rivaling Peyton Manning,” said one NFL director of pro personnel this week. “It’s going to take time. But he’s still one of the top five quarterbacks in the league right now.”
Dave Lapham has seen the best passing seasons ever here as an offensive lineman and currently as the club’s radio analyst, including Palmer’s 101.1 of last season, Ken Anderson’s 98.4 of 1981 and Boomer Esiason’s 97.4 of 1988, and this one isn’t too shabby.
“I agree with him that he isn’t where he thinks he needs to be, but he’s still been excellent,” Lapham said. “Anything you do in sports, I don’t care what it is, hitting a baseball, throwing a football, you need your legs, and I don’t think there’s any question that he’s still at times trying to get them underneath him. I think in the last five or six games or so, you’ll see him back to where he was. He’s close, but not there.”
Of course, there were a lot of reasons he was off the charts through the first six games last season (there is only a pass attempt difference this year) with 13 touchdown passes, just two interceptions and a ridiculous 72.6 passing percentage.
There was only one missed game on the offensive line (center Rich Braham against Jacksonville), two among the top receivers and running backs (T.J. Houshmandzadeh against Jacksonville and Tennessee), and four of those games came against defenses that finished last season 16th or lower in the NFL’s defensive rankings.
This season he’s hitting just 62 percent of his passes and his yards per attempt is down by more than half a yard.
But he’s had five different offensive lines with the jarring loss of Braham and among his top three receivers and top two running backs there have been 10 games missed because of injuries, suspension, or discipline.
And the Bengals have already played three of the league’s top four defenses from last season’s rankings.
“Every year is different,” Palmer said. “Teams play you differently, we’re playing different defenses and, yeah, we played some weaker ones last year compared to this season. I say it all the time. You can’t always throw for 300 yards or even 200 yards.”
Of course, what he won’t say is that he’s coming off the most grueling rehab in football. If you get him in a weak moment, he’ll admit he’s still coping. On Friday he said he’s probably around 90 percent in a comeback that has amazed even his teammates.
“I respected him before, but to see him come back and be so strong is just unbelievable,” said tight end Tony Stewart.
Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese has been amazed at Palmer's bullet-proof psyche that has matched his physical endurance.
“Just mental toughness,” Zampese said. “He hasn’t had an offseason. And he’s taken all the crap that keeps coming. Losing Richie. His receivers. He’s just kept going. It bothers him, but he’s able to stay composed.”
Zampese is the keeper of the fundamentals and it all begins and ends with the feet, and the feet begin and end with the leg.
It is Palmer’s left leg, the front leg, and that’s the one that Palmer has to make sure he follows through on for accuracy.
“Footwork is the building blocks of throwing straight,” Zampese said. “It’s something you stay on top of and when it falls off you have to get back on it. The thing with Carson is that he’s so conscientious that when he needs improvement on something it becomes a point of emphasis and it goes away. The footwork is getting better every day.”
The two of them struggled with it in training camp as Palmer burned the candle at both ends with rehab and football. But he had come such a long way with it that two weeks ago Zampese said he highlighted the improvement on his grease board.
“The legs are your foundation,” Palmer said. “It’s where you get your accuracy, your balance, your ball speed. I’m getting there. It will get there eventually.”
There is also the decision making. Zampese harps on it daily.
“Even before he got hurt it’s something we always tried to improve,” Zampese said. “Where to throw it. When. Why we’re throwing it there. I don’t think both of us will ever be satisfied, but we keep working at it.”
With the offense struggling, Zampese has noticed that Palmer, at times, is anxious to make a play, and that can leak out in various ways. Earlier in the season he was holding on the ball waiting for better options and he was getting sacked and stripped.
With the line play improving and Palmer making it a point of emphasis, it hasn’t happened lately. But it can be other things, too. Last week he had running back Chris Perry open in the flat, but he waited and then threw it too far to the sideline.
“He’s got to stay on Chris there,” Zampese said. “He looked off for something else and by the time he got back to him, it was panic time because he was running out of room on the sidelines.”
But here’s a guy whose last interception came in the second half against Pittsburgh more than a month ago. Only four picks in 196 throws are a big reason this team is 4-2 and have scored points on all 16 trips in the red zone.
Just ask Jake Delhomme.
“It’s expectations,” said an interested observer before Friday’s practice. “Off of what he did last year, and with the offense struggling at times this year, he set a very high standard.”
Troy Aikman, in town to analyze the game for Fox, is Palmer’s boyhood hero. When he read that Palmer used to go to Cowboys training camp to watch him, Aikman dropped him notes when he got drafted and when he got hurt.
“The first time I met him is just now in the locker room,” Aikman said. “I haven’t seen any tape of him yet. I’ll watch it today and tomorrow. I haven’t seen him play live yet; it’s a big reason I’ve been looking forward to doing this game.”
He may see something familiar. Palmer has been compared to the tall, unflappable Aikman ever since he was at USC. Aikman got a scouting report from former Cowboys teammate Daryl Johnston, the Fox analyst last week for the Bengals’ win over Carolina.
" I saw Daryl Wednesday morning and asked him a few things about Cincinnati,” Aikman said. “I asked him how Carson was and he said, 'Carson was great. I thought I was talking to you when we were sitting in there in the production meeting.' ”
On the outside looking in, Aikman has a pretty good view.
”Nothing wrong with 62 percent,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
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