OAKLAND (AP) — Carson Palmer has seen glimpses of what Darren McFadden can bring to the Oakland Raiders offense throughout offseason workouts, training camp and a few series in exhibition games.
He can’t wait to see that game-breaking ability for real for the first time when the season opens Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.
“It was such a tease in the preseason because he’s really only gotten a series here or there.” Palmer said. “I’m like a kid in a candy store, though. I cannot wait. Just the little that we’ve seen of him in the preseason, he brings so much to the field. I’m more excited about that than anything.”
Palmer and McFadden never got a chance to play together last season as McFadden injured his right foot early in the game that Palmer eventually made his Raiders debut in last Oct. 23.
The Raiders held out hope that McFadden could return late last season but it never happened, meaning Monday night will be the first time Oakland’s two most important offensive players take the field together in a game that counts.
“It’s going to be very joyful,” McFadden said. “I’ll have butterflies, the first time back in a real game situation. I’m looking forward to it. I’m very excited for it. I’m looking to have fun. ... I’m looking forward to getting out there with him. He’s a smart guy who makes the right decisions, puts us in the right situations so it’s going to be a great thing.”
Having a healthy McFadden by his side is only one of the big differences for Palmer heading into this season. Last year at this time, Palmer was home on his couch, threatening to retire rather than play again for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Palmer got a chance to restart his career when Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and the Raiders traded a first and second-round pick to the Bengals for Palmer on Oct. 18.
He was thrown right into the mix five days later, throwing three interceptions in relief against Kansas City despite not knowing the Raiders playbook, taking any first-team snaps or watching film on the Chiefs that week.
Palmer was made the starter the next game and had an up-and-down finish to the season despite never getting a chance to learn the whole playbook. He was fifth in the league in yards passing after becoming the starter with 2,637 yards but also had 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in that span.
“Everything was just happening so fast that I really didn’t sit back and say ‘Oh those stats are good or those stats are bad,’” Palmer said. “I just had to go on to the next game or the next section of the playbook or go on to the next workout and get ready. It just happened in such a blur that I don’t look at it and try to get any positive feeling from it or any negative feeling from it. It happened. Unfortunately it didn’t work out to get to the playoffs like we wanted to. The best thing is we have another shot.”
Despite the roller-coaster season in Oakland a year ago, the Raiders would have won the AFC West had they beaten San Diego at home in the season finale. Instead, they lost 38-26 and missed the postseason for the ninth straight season.
“We are well aware of who knocked us out,” Palmer said. “We talked about that enough. We understand. We haven’t forgotten what happened last year.”
Palmer’s counterpart Monday night, San Diego’s Philip Rivers, is looking to forget about last season as the Chargers missed the playoffs for the second straight year following a run of four consecutive AFC West titles.
A six-game losing streak in the middle of the season doomed San Diego. Rivers threw 10 of his career-high 20 interceptions during that skid, which proved to be too much to overcome.
“We didn’t have trouble moving the ball last year and we didn’t have trouble scoring points, but we gave the ball away too much, I gave the ball away too much,” Rivers said. “If we can stay away from that, then we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Rivers has always been a high-risk, high-reward passer, preferring to take chances down field rather than checking it down. With tall, big-play receivers like Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates, Rivers has often been willing to throw the ball into coverage and let his teammates make a play.
While that worked well for many years, it led to too many turnovers a year ago.
“There’s a fine line to being careful and being careless,” Rivers said. “You don’t want to play the game careful because then you won’t make any of those big plays that we made in the past. At the same time, you don’t want to get carried away with trying to fit every ball in there, throwing the deep ball into two guys and hope Malcom or one of these guys comes down with it because they have in years past. So, there is a fine line, and finding that balance is key.”