There has been a lot made of Carson Palmer's mobility or his assumed lack thereof as it pertains to the Raiders switching to an offense that requires him to move around a lot more. But despite this assumption, there is really no evidence to suggest he can't make the transition.
Palmer has always been thought of as a big armed, pocket passer. And in the eyes of those in NFL circles, that is the role in which they have type cast him. He became a Pro Bowl quarterback while staying in the pocket and slinging it all over the yard, helping to make the-receiver-formerly-known-as Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmandzadeh into Pro Bowlers.
Prior to his time in NFL, he was the Heisman winning Golden boy with the golden arm out of USC. You don't get much more famous than that before ever taking an NFL field. He was the ideal, statuesque, square jawed, number one overall pick, hero quarterback right out of Hollywood. And now he is done getting type cast and is looking to break out of the pigeon hole that the NFL has made for him.
When the Raiders first acquired him, there was some criticism. Most of it was for the price the Raiders paid to get him but some of it was that supposed idea that he would not be able to survive in Oakland where they usually required a quarterback to be able to step out of the pocket now and then.
One of the first people to step up and attempt to dispel this notion that Carson Palmer was a statue in the pocket was ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer who said early on that Palmer is far more mobile than people give him credit for. Although, he was the only analyst I heard even mention Palmers athletic ability.
Then in a recent interview with the Bay Area station 95.7 The Game, head coach Dennis Allen expressed surprise at the notion that Palmer is immobile.
"I absolutely believe that [Palmer can move outside the pocket]." Said Allen. "I get a lot of questions ‘what about Carson's mobility? What about his athleticism?' and I might be missing something but I don't see that. I see a guy that's got athleticism, I see a guy that's got good footwork in the pocket so I think he's gonna fit in tremendously to the offensive scheme and I think he's gonna have an exceptional year."
Now, with the players receiving their playbooks containing Greg Knapp's offense, Palmer will have a chance to prove it. He has been working very hard in the offseason to brush up on his footwork .
"I am trying to match up what I see on film with my throwing drills," Palmer said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "You have different players coming from different spots, and some of the reads are different, but some of the concepts I have run before. We'll definitely be trying to get the ball deep to our fast receivers."
Palmer is excited for this challenge but these new concepts are not entirely new to him. It is not a situation where he is being introduced a foreign system. He simply needs to brush up on them. He wasn't asked to move around a lot in Cincinnati where he had spent his entire career prior to coming over to the Raiders last season. He had to recall his time at USC, but it is there.
"A lot of things quarterbacks are asked to do in this offense are strengths of mine." Palmer told the Bay Area News Group. "There are a lot of naked bootlegs and I've always focused on working on that. I did so much of it in college and I'm excited to do more of it now. I haven't done it a ton (in the NFL, but it's something I'm comfortable doing."
"The good thing with all this play-action stuff and move-the-pocket stuff is that some of the best plays are the screens and checkdowns to running backs... I love throwing the ball downfield, but watching Houston and seeing the completions they got with Arian Foster with 10 yards of cushion, were exciting to see. It gave him a chance to put his foot in the ground and go."
Palmer showed flashes last season of his ability to move around in the pocket and throw outside of the pocket. None more so than the week ten win over the Vikings. He had just 164 yards passing in that game but the Raiders won it in large part due to his play action fakes. He had the defense guessing all day-and they often guessed wrong. In that game he also showcased his ability use his footwork to create just enough space inside to pocket to throw a nice pass. He also had a rushing touchdown in the game on a goal line QB sneak.
Most times people like to look at the stat sheet when quantifying a quarterback's mobility. They look at the rushing yards and make their judgment. But that stat does not tell the story. For guys like Mike Vick and Tim Tebow, sure it is a simple equation. But those are both run-first or single read, and tuck it quarterbacks.
Carson Palmer is far too good a passer to resort to pulling the ball down and running as a first or second option. He knows his best option is to put the ball in the air when he drops back. He is a first read, second read, check his protection, third read, escape the pocket and find the open man type quarterback. Running the ball is only an option when the red seas part and there is no linebacker waiting on the other side or all vertical options have been exhausted.
In this new, more fast paced offense, he will simply have to move with the pocket and throw from outside zones with a lot more bootlegs and play action. This will all be set up by the run. Matt Schaub had a great deal of success in it in Houston and Schaub has always been considered more of a pocket passer than a mobile quarterback.
Just for comparison, both Palmer and Schaub played in ten games last season. Schaub had 9 yards rushing on the season, Palmer had 20. Schaub had 2479 passing yards, Palmer had 2753. That goes to show you how little the rushing yards to passing yards ratio matter when being considered a mobile quarterback.
Additionally, both offenses have All Pro caliber running backs. Arian Foster in Houston and Darren McFadden in Oakland. All play action from Palmer will be set up by the run game which will help create room for him to move around and give running backs and tight ends a chance to find an open area with room for run after the catch.
Palmer said he was excited to see the new playbook as it showcased his and several of his teammates strengths. This is just as Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp has claimed would be their plan.
The Raiders are in good hands with Palmer behind center. And it appears Carson's feet will also prove to be an asset.