OAKLAND (AP) — Three years to the day that Carson Palmer first practiced with the Raiders, with hopes of solidifying Oakland’s revolving door at quarterback and turning the team into a contender, he returns having done just that in Arizona.
Palmer’s less-than-two-year stay in Oakland started with promise as he almost led the Raiders to the 2011 playoffs before a late-season collapse. But after a four-win season in 2012, the Raiders dealt Palmer to Arizona when he was unwilling to take a pay cut.
The change of scenery has worked out well for Palmer as the Cardinals won 10 games a year ago and are in first place in the NFC West this season thanks to a 4-1 start heading into Sunday’s game at Oakland (0-5).
“I have no hard feelings at all,” Palmer said. “I loved my time there. I loved living in the Bay Area, and playing for the Raiders is unlike anything else. There is just something special to being a Raider and you don’t know it until you get to experience it.”
After Palmer left, the Raiders rotated Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn and Matt McGloin at quarterback last season as they continued to search for what’s been missing ever since Rich Gannon retired a decade ago.
They just might have found the answer now in rookie Derek Carr, coming off his best game yet, having thrown four touchdown passes in last week’s 31-28 loss to San Diego.
“From everything I’ve heard, he’s a really, really good player and they have their guy of the future and that’s great,” Palmer said. “They deserve to have a good young guy to build around.”
Carr did throw a late interception that ended a comeback attempt and is still seeking his first win as a pro.
“I do feel like I’m getting better,” Carr said. “I have to continue to get better. Obviously it’s not good enough. That’s no problem for me because I love going to work and doing those things. I do feel like I’m getting better every day, but I have a long ways to go.”
Here are some other things to watch when the Cardinals visit the Raiders:
Palmer isn’t the only former Raider set to make a return to the Coliseum. Left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly will also return. Veldheer is most interesting because the Raiders allowed him to leave as a free agent after previously calling him a building block. Oakland ended up signing Donald Penn, who has had a bounce-back season after getting cut by Tampa.
Carr came into the league facing questions whether he could outperform big brother David, who was a disappointment after being drafted first overall in 2002 by the expansion Houston Texans. David Carr never recovered from the beating he took early in his career behind a patchwork line, getting sacked a record 76 times as a rookie. Derek Carr has benefited from good protection, with only Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton getting sacked on a lower percentage of pass plays.
“I’m very appreciative. I appreciate it a lot,” Carr said. “I know my wife appreciates it. They’ve been doing such a fantastic job.”
The biggest difference for the Raiders in their first game under interim coach Tony Sparano was an improved running game. Oakland ran for a season-high 114 yards, including 80 on 14 carries for Darren McFadden in his most productive day in more than a year. The effective running game allowed Oakland to convert 8 of 13 third-down attempts, the team’s best performance since the 2011 season finale.