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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

After Further Review: Palmer a perfect fit for Raiders attack

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Carson Palmer will be working with plenty of skill-position talent in Oakland. (AP)  
Carson Palmer will be working with plenty of skill-position talent in Oakland. (AP)  

The question has been asked a lot the past few days: How will Carson Palmer fit in the Oakland Raiders' offense.

The answer? Perfectly.

The Raiders' system is a deep-ball system that is perfect for his arm. It is a run-first offense now with Darren McFadden, but it features a lot of deep speed outside to feature Palmer's arm.

In evaluating the Raiders' receivers the past few weeks, the guy who is coming into his own is Darrius Heyward-Bey. Considered a major disappointment in his first two seasons, he is running better routes and he's more productive. He leads the team with 22 catches, four fewer than he had all of last season.

Heyward-Bey is a fast player who will get vertical now that Palmer is the quarterback. The one thing after watching tape on him is that Heyward-Bey still catches the ball with his body too many times. That has to change. He did that three times last week against the Browns.

Jacoby Ford and rookie Denarius Moore are the other top receivers, although Louis Murphy is back after missing time with an injury. Ford had a big play after catching a ball out of the backfield against the Browns, a different look for him. Moore has been a major surprise as a rookie. He has a 50-yard touchdown catch. He runs clean routes, has good speed and uses his hands.

Murphy appeared to back away from contact on one play last week. He was running a crossing route, but instead of making a play for the ball appeared to cower as the safety bore down on him.

Tight end Kevin Boss is a good receiver and McFadden can also be good in the short passing game.

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For all the outside speed the Raiders have, they have just three passing plays of 40-plus yards. That's 19th in the league. Palmer's ability to throw deep will change that.

For those who think Palmer struggled last season, here's an interesting stat: Only eight other quarterbacks threw more than the 26 touchdown passes he had.

Palmer had some tough moments, but looking at his second-to-last game with the Bengals, a blowout of the Chargers, shows how good he can be. Playing that day without Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, who drove him crazy last season, Palmer played free and loose.

He threw four touchdown passes and had a passer rating of 157.2. He had five pass plays over 20 yards, one a 59-yard touchdown and another a 44-yard completion. He was comfortable and he was sharp. He looked like he enjoyed himself.

The ability is still there. Now that he is with a team with young, impressionable receivers -- not unlike the ones he threw to in that game for the Bengals -- Palmer should be able to make plays down the field for the Raiders.

Al Davis loved the deep ball.

He has to be looking down smiling now when he sees what his offense can do with the new quarterback.

Film study (10 things I saw on the tape that you didn't)

1. I love the way the 49ers ran the ball at the Lions last week. They took full advantage of the Lions' up-field approach. On Frank Gore's first long run, a 47-yard gain, the 49ers ran a trap play. Right guard Adam Snyder trapped right defensive tackle Corey Williams and motion tight end Delanie Walker trapped Ndamukong Suh. Center Jonathan Goodwin and right tackle Anthony Davis got out and blocked the linebackers. Gore ran off the Walker block for the big gain. Then on his 55-yard run later in the game, the 49ers used the same exact play. Walker trapped Suh again on that play to open up the run. The Lions are having trouble with their run defense, and these two plays show one of the reasons why.

2. So is C.J. Spiller now a receiver? The Bills have split him out at times, but he was used as a receiver a lot last week against the Giants. He looked natural doing it. On one play, he sat down on a curl route for a short gain, catching the ball with his hands. On another, he caught a crossing route for a 15-yard gain. With the success of Fred Jackson in the backfield, it makes sense to get Spiller on the field as an extra weapon in the passing game.

3. The Giants always seem to come up with a good tight end. They had Jeremy Shockey and then Kevin Boss and now it appears Jake Ballard has a chance. The thinking was that Ballard was just a big blocking tight end, but he showed last week he can be more than that. He caught five passes for 81 yards, including a 22-yard catch. On that play, he had a nice release off the line and ran behind the linebacker in front of George Wilson for a big play. He isn't explosive, but he knows how to get to the open spots. And he's huge at 6-feet-6, 275 pounds.

4. If you're looking for an improved second-year player, take a look at Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. He struggled some as a rookie with assignments, but he's playing much faster now. It's evident he's thinking less and reacting more. He chased down a screen for a short gain last week against Carolina, thumped DeAngelo Williams on a 1-yard gain and also got pressure on Cam Newton twice. Weatherspoon has improved a ton since last season.

5. Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji played like a star late last season and on into the playoffs. But he hasn't been the same player so far this season. He has been good, not great. Against the Rams last week, he didn't do much. He wasn't great at the point of attack, but he also didn't get any pressure. Raji looked to be a nose tackle who could rush the passer late last season. But that wasn't the case against the Rams. He was doubled some, but even when he wasn't he didn't get push. To be honest, he looks heavier than he was a year ago. Is that impacting his play?

6. How old is Ray Lewis? The man never seems to age. Just when we think he's slowing down, he has a game like he had against the Texans. He was all over the field. On the Texans' first possession, Lewis seemed to find his youth on a blitz that resulted in a sack. He exploded off the left side, beating a block from fullback Lawrence Vickers to drop Matt Schaub. He ended the game with 12 tackles and the sack.

7. One of the biggest questions this season for the Patriots was where they would get their pass rush. Andre Carter is answering that. Carter had an impressive game against the Cowboys. He had two sacks, five tackles and two hits on the quarterback. He exploded past Doug Free for one sack and then came around to sack Tony Romo. The Patriots have played better on defense the past couple of weeks in part because Carter is showing a pass rush.

8. The Browns needed to use this season to find out if they have a franchise passer in Colt McCoy. If they want to believe that, they better not put on the Raiders tape. McCoy was bad. He threw off his back foot in the face of pressure several times and threw to empty spaces several other times when he was pressured. He had a couple of drops, but McCoy really struggled. He just never seemed to be able to get much on his passes. He doesn't have a great arm anyway, but it seemed to be a problem against the Raiders. He needs to get it going or the Browns will be in the market for a quarterback in next April's draft.

9. I love Rob Ryan's defense in Dallas. He throws a ton of things at the opposition and he did a great job against Tom Brady last week. At times, Brady looked confused. But I have a bone to pick. Why did the Cowboys rush only two players on the play that featured Brady throwing to Aaron Hernandez for the game-winning touchdown? Brady scanned the field because there was no pressure and Hernandez was able to work across the back of the end zone to get open. For an aggressive coach like Ryan, it just didn't make sense. Not against Brady in that situation.

10. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been searching for a pass rusher for years. They might have a sleeper of one in John Chick. He had two pressures and a sack last week against the Steelers. The Jaguars have privately raved about Chick and there was some talk that the Colts shouldn't have cut him. Jaguars coaches are happy they did. Aaron Kampman returned last week after missing the first five games battling back from major knee surgery. Kampman was limited to 16 snaps and clearly looked to be dragging his leg around. He didn't have the same explosiveness to his game. It might take time for that to come back, but Chick might be the sleeper that helps the team ease Kampman back into the lineup.

Hot Tub

1. 49ers defensive end Justin Smith: He owned the left side of the Detroit line. He had 1½ sacks with seven tackles and three quarterback hurries.

2. Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny: He was all over the field against the Steelers, finishing with 19 tackles.

3. Falcons running back Michael Turner: There were rumblings that Turner didn't have the same quickness to the hole he once had. The 139 yards he had against Carolina dispute that.

4. Raiders tackle Jared Veldheer: Joe Thomas of the Browns was the marquee left tackle in the Browns-Raiders game, but Veldheer had the better game.

5. 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree: After a slow start to his career, he's starting to look like a real threat as a receiver. He is running better routes and he seems to be playing faster. He had nine catches against the Lions.

Cold Tub

1. Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco: No catches and little action against the Cowboys shows he is done.

2. Cowboys center Phil Costa: He has problems with people on his nose, which is why Dallas didn't run it well against New England. He also got pushed back in the pocket several times.

3. Texans defensive end Antonio Smith: He got two personal foul penalties on the team's opening drive. Without Mario Williams, he has to be smarter than that.

4. Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie: He didn't have a good game against the Texans, showing why the Vikings were willing to let him go. He looked sloppy for much of the day.

5. Bills cornerback Drayton Florence: He had three pass-interference penalties called on him, including two on the Giants' game-winning drive.

Three and outs

Three things annoying me:

1. The Suck for Luck talk. Do people really think current NFL players won't play hard to get a better pick? Players don't care about next season. They care about now.

2. Hearing somebody say Tim Tebow works harder than everyone else, so he will succeed. Based on that assumption, your CPA might be an NFL quarterback someday.

3. Locker rooms that look like somebody died there when you enter. It's a game. Important? Yes, but just a game.

Tweets at me

1. From: @DonOlmstead: @PriscoCBS Little jealous of the money he makes huh? Nick Saban's dog knows more about football than you do

2. From: @Edge316007: @PriscoCBS Pete Prisco IS an ass-thorn.

3. From: @JeremyTate: @PriscoCBS Could you imagine if John Gruden was covering him (Tebow)

Three assistants who have never been a head coach who could be your team's next head coach

1. Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer: He has the second-rated defense in the NFL. His aggressive, hard approach works.

2. Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan: Forget the long hair, the big belly and the foul mouth. This guy can coach.

3. Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano: In his first season running the defense, he has them No. 3 in the league. He is a rising star according to some personnel people.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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