Driving to Kentucky around this time of year must feel like Groundhog Day for Carson Palmer. This year’s summer sojourn to the blue-grassed campus of Georgetown College will be his seventh, only this time, he’s suddenly become one of the older guys. When did this happen??
Carson gazes onto a practice field where he prepped years ago for a season of intense observation of the cunning and wily Jon Kitna. Only now, new wave of observers are all staring at him now.
Six actual playing seasons (and can you really count last season as a credited season?), two significant injuries (knee/elbow) and 15,630 yards into his career, Palmer is not yet near his twilight, but perhaps well into his prime. Expectations of his play exceeding what he’s already demonstrated seem out of reach and even unfair.
The statistics of Carson’s success, like many other quarterbacks, seem closely correlated with the amount of rushing yards the team accumulates. Every season since his MVP-caliber season of 2005 (32 tds, 12 int, 3,836 yds, 101.1 rtg), Palmer’s passing yards have gone up while his quarterback rating and his wins have declined. In that time the running game produced less yardage each year.
The injuries and the decrepitation of Chris Perry has a key role in those statistics. With a decent two-back system, Palmer likely would have thrown less and may have improved statistically, but the point isn’t about stats, it’s what Palmer’s play looks like, and that hasn’t changed a bit.
It seems safe to say that the scouting report on No. 9 isn’t going to look much different in the next six years or so: Big arm, modest mobility, quite sackable. I’ve used the Drew Bledsoe comparison before and I’m sticking with it. Give the guy time and a run game and he can light up the fantasy-football universe; take away a run game and sack him five times a game and he just might lead the league in interceptions (2007/20) or get hurt.
If Benson busts through with big yardage this year and the line holds up even a little on pass-protection, than Carson should lead this offense on some successful Sunday campaigns in 2009 and look good doing it. He’s a smart guy who works extremely hard and seems to really care about his team; I would want no other quarterback in the league based on those qualities.
Carson’s an excellent example for the youngsters in Georgetown eager to impress the captain on the field. The coaches know the value of their star and what conditions he works best in.
The need for a running game has been listed as a team concern since Rudi Johnson became unreliable. Palmer’s not getting worse anytime soon, but it seems to me that he has reached his ceiling and won’t get much better.
He’s got some fun new toys to play with and a growing crop of offensive lineman; he’ll soon have all he needs to prove me wrong. Let’s see him do it.