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Don't blame Carson

National Football Post

Many fans and media will have their eyes on Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati this weekend as former Bengals Quarterback Carson Palmer makes his return to Ohio with the Oakland Raiders.

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US PRESSWIRECarson Palmer has thrown for over 5,000-yards in his last 16 games.

ESPN Reporter John Clayton penned a piece recently calling into question the logic behind the trade for Carson Palmer from a Raiders perspective, and described him as “struggling”. Although I admire the Hall of Fame scribe’s work, I completely disagree with his stance.

At the time of Jason Campbell’s injury in 2011, the Raiders were 4-2 and in the driver’s seat in the AFC West. Coach Hue Jackson felt like they were simply a Quarterback away from a long-awaited playoff birth for the franchise. He went all-in so to speak, and gave away significant draft picks to pick up Carson Palmer.

Although the Raiders finished their season on the cusp of the playoffs in 2011, they simply could not overcome a rash of injuries at key positions. The injury bug has carried over into 2012, but one of the few bright spots on that roster has actually been the resurgent play of Carson Palmer.

Over his past 16 games with the Raiders, Palmer has been more productive than at any other point in his career. He’s completed over 60% of his passes, for 5,041 yards and 25 TD’s. That’s right…Palmer is a 5,000 yard passer over the past 16 games.

If you told most GM’s in the NFL that their QB would put up those numbers over the course of 16 weeks, they would be ecstatic. Clayton pointed out that Palmer has thrown five balls that have been returned for pick sixes, but that truly doesn’t tell the story. As has always been the case, QB’s in the NFL get all the glory and all the blame. How many of those pick sixes were on tipped balls, or due to a receiver running the wrong route, or in desperation moments when Palmer was simply trying to make a play while being far behind on the scoreboard late in the game?

The truth of the matter is that Oakland’s roster is a mess. They’ve struggled mightily running the football, and they have had a carousel of receivers ranging from first round draft picks to practice squad guys that have started games since Palmer joined the franchise. The days of Zack Miller being a reliable threat as a tightend are long gone. Darren McFadden continues to miss games with injuries, and they’ve yet to establish a consistent threat outside of Darius Heyward-Bey that can stay in the lineup at receiver. As I pointed out last week, Marcel Reece has been the most reliable skill player on the roster.

Defensively, Oakland has been an absolutely epic disaster. Last season, they finished 29th in the NFL in points allowed. This season, they are dead last, allowing 32 points a game defensively.

So if you can’t consistently run the football, you can’t stay healthy at key offensive positions, and you are the worst team in the NFL on defense, chances are you aren’t going to be very successful, regardless of who is under center.

More than likely the Raiders will venture into Cincinnati on Sunday and walk away with another “L” in the W-L column. But contrary to The Professor’s assertion, it won’t be because of a struggling Carson Palmer.  He’s been on fire despite what he’s been surrounded with, and he’s one of the few pieces to the puzzle that Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has in place. They’ve simply got to figure out the rest.

Follow Warren on Twitter: @mpifradio

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