Raiders key matchup No. 3: Palmer vs. Barber


Raiders key matchup No. 3: Palmer vs. Barber

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Buccaneers matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m. (Fox), at Coliseum.Raiders QB Carson Palmer vs. Buccaneers FS Ronde BarberTale of the tape
Palmer (3): 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, 10th season, USC
Barber (20): 5-foot-10, 184 pounds, 16th season, VirginiaALAMEDA -- At 32 years old, Carson Palmer is seen as an elder statesman, of sorts, in the NFL.Then again, Palmer was a high school senior when Ronde Barber was playing his rookie NFL season, in 1997.RELATED: Ageless Barber keeps on keeping on
Welcome to Sunday's Battle for the Ages, er, Aged. The two have a combined 26 seasons of pro football experience and seven Pro Bowl selections. That both are figurative old dogs learning new tricks -- Palmer is in a West Coast offense for the first time in his career while Barber has made the switch from cornerback to free safety -- makes this matchup all the more intriguing, but not necessarily more fun.
"Enjoy is definitely not the right word," Palmer said of facing Barber. "Ive played against him a handful of times over the years, and nickel, dime, safety, wherever he is, I looked at his age today and hes 37 years old. But he absolutely flashes on film."He makes plays, hes great in coverage. He makes a couple of unbelievable interceptions off tipped balls. Hell come up and tackle Adrian Peterson and stuff him. Hes everywhere. He makes plays. Hes playing as good a football as Ive seen him play."You could say the same of Palmer, who is on pace to to pass for a career-high 4,436 yards with a career-low-for-16-games 11 interceptions. And his current passer rating of 85.7 would be his best since 2007.Seems both Palmer and Barber, who already has three interceptions, are enjoying renaissance-type seasons."Im sure he was at the point in his career where he knew the defense inside and out," Palmer said of Barber. "Probably didnt look at the playbook very much. Now, with a new defensive coordinator, new calls, new position, Im sure it is energizing for him. I know Ive gone through a similar thing, but you cant tell. It doesnt look like its his first year playing safety."Palmer, meanwhile, has started 16 games for the Raiders now since being acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals last October. His numbers in those 16 starts: 4,578 yards on 353-of-576 passing (61.3 percent) with 22 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.The 4,578 passing yards are obviously more than Palmer's had in any single season, eclipsing the 4,131 yards he passed for in 2007."The few times I faced him when he was in Cincinnati you would always prepare for him like hes the true pro," Barber said of Palmer. "He understands where to deliver the football. If you give him certain looks hes going to make the right reads. You've got to expect that out of him. Hes not one to make many mistakes. Obviously, were going to do our best to try to force him into them."In two career games against Barber and the Buccaneers, Palmer is 2-0 with 470 yards passing with three TDs and three INTs."Hes a 10-year guy now so theres not much that he, like me, hasnt seen," Barber said. "Were going to have to be on our details, finish our preparation this week and see if we can pick up anything on him. If we do, well try to exploit them."

Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs


Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs

ALAMEDA – NaVorro Bowman was a sponge this week, absorbing the Raiders defense as quickly as possible.

The veteran inside linebacker signed with the Raiders Monday afternoon and did enough to play Thursday night’s pivotal home game against Kansas City.

That’s a huge plus for a Raiders team looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Bowman should be able to help right away despite being new to the scheme.

“He’s a veteran. He understands ball,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday. “We haven’t tried to install the entire playbook, but specific game plans and things. He’s had a good week. Even though it’s a short week, we feel good and he’ll play.”

He’ll probably start at inside linebacker and play the base defense as least. While many have criticized his speed and coverage skills diminished from major injuries, Bowman remains a sure tackler who can provide solid on-field leadership.

Veteran savvy and natural ability should carry Bowman while he masters a new scheme, allowing him to make the immediate impact required with the Raiders reeling at 2-4.

“He is very instinctive,” Del Rio said. "He’s a veteran guy that’s been there before. He understands what it looks like to lineup against a good football team and help us win.”

Bowman’s fresh and healthy, a step above his others at his position. Inside linebackers Cory James (knee), Marquel Lee (ankle) and Nicholas Morrow (ankle) are all questionable heading into Thursday’s game.

He has also been a willing teacher to a group of inside linebackers featuring a second-year pro and three rookies.

“They’re just soaking it up,” Del Rio said. “They’ll ask, ‘When do you lift? How often do you lift? When do you meet? When do you cover this?’ It’s good stuff to have for a really young group.”

In other injury news, right tackle Marshall Newhouse is out, leaving Vadal Alexander to start in his spot. David Sharpe should be the swing tackle in reserve.

Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’


Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’

ALAMEDA – Todd Downing has friends with fantasy football teams. Those faux general managers, like many across the roto world, took Raiders with high draft picks.

They would like to know why Derek Carr isn’t throwing touchdowns in bulk, Amari Cooper’s in a slump and Marshawn Lynch isn’t getting more carries.

“I have friends that have him on their fantasy team that are mad at me for that,” Downing said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s part of the business.”

Ah, the life of an NFL coordinator. Players get credit when things go right. Play callers sit over a Bunsen burner the rest of the time.

Downing understands that part of this gig.

“I welcome the responsibility that this job has afforded me,” he said. “I understand that I’m going to have to deal with negative comments and consequences when things aren’t going well. I’m looking forward to standing up here in a more positive fashion some time soon.”

Positives were expected right away. He was given the keys to a Lamborghini with a franchise quarterback under center, 1,000-yard receivers on each flank, an older back considered among the best of his generation, and the NFL’s biggest and most expensive offensive line.

The Raiders ranked No. 6 in total offense before adding Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Now they’re 30th heading into Thursday night’s game against Kansas City.

The mob is lighting torches, armed with pitchforks. After six weeks.

Everyone has an opinion on what’s wrong and how to fix this offense. More interior runs, less outside zone. More play action, please. Go deep, a lot. Have Derek hold on to the ball longer. Have Derek get rid of it quick. Do all that at once. Do it now.

Downing’s going to stick with his system. The Raiders will stick with their process, thank you very much, with faith that things will turn.

“When you look at the tape, you can see that we’re so close on so many things,” Downing said. “I know that sounds cliché and I know that sounds like someone sitting up here and trying to give you the rose-colored glasses, but it’s the truth. We know that we’re just this close to making a couple more plays each game and being able to come out on top and feeling like we put together a good product.

“…We’re looking for answers right now, but we know those answers exist in our room and in our scheme. Once we hit our stride, we’re excited to see what it looks like.”

There’s reason to believe that can happen. Take the season’s first two games, for example. The Raiders scored 71 points in that span. There’s talent everywhere in the starting lineup and behind it.

That’s why concern reigns during a four-game losing streak where the offense is averaging 13.1 points. They can’t sustain drives, come through on third down or block consistently in the run game. Their play count is dismally low. According to the Associated Press, the Raiders aver averaging 54 plays per game. Every other team has at least 60. The 2005 49ers were the last team that averaged such a sum. The Raiders haven’t had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver.

Offense is blamed for a dismal 2-4 start. Even the universally beloved Carr has taken some heat for lackluster performances.

“I don’t think there’s a single guy that can look back over the last few weeks and say, ‘You know what, I’m really pleased with how I’ve played over the last three weeks,’ or, ‘Called the last three weeks’ or, ‘Coached my position the last three weeks.’ We all own this together,” Downing said. “There’s no one guy that is going to save it or break it or anything in between. We need to do this as a team and everybody needs to make the plays they’re afforded the opportunity to make and I need to call the right plays when afforded the opportunity to call them.”

The Raiders can and must do better before falling further. Righting the ship too late to reach the season’s goals might hurt as much as a completely dismal campaign.

Pressing, however, isn’t the answer.

“You do have to stay patient,” Downing said. “I tell the offense this every week, but it’s never been more true than where we’re at now as an offense. We have a belief in what we’ve done this far, and the system we’ve put in place, and the playmakers we have in that room, and the coaches that are up in the room with me, and you will never see me waiver in my belief of any single one of those guys, including myself. If I did, and I started acting different or started calling games differently, then that would mean I didn’t really believe in the first place.”