With Green aboard, Palmer should come back
Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will break down how 12 top 2011 NFL draft picks can immediately impact their new clubs.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer(notes) drew a line in the sand after the 2010 season, asking for a trade and insisting that he would rather retire than play another down for his current team. This despite signing a six-year, $118.5 million contract extension in December of 2005 that was supposed to take him through the 2014 season. It’s easy to understand Palmer’s frustration with a front office that runs hot and cold, but the man himself hasn’t been what he was in recent years, as injuries have taken their toll.
That said, two things may force Palmer to reconsider his stance. First, there’s the fact that the Bengals selected Georgia’s A.J. Green(notes), the best receiver in the 2011 NFL draft class, with the fourth overall pick. Second, there’s the 34-20 win over the San Diego Chargers in Week 16 last season, when Palmer enjoyed a near-perfect performance (16 of 21 for 269 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions) despite – or quite possibly because of – the absences of Chad Ochocinco(notes) and Terrell Owens(notes).
Their Spartan scouting department aside, the Bengals have picked up a few young receivers with a great deal of potential over the last few years. Wide receiver Jordan Shipley(notes) and tight end Jermaine Gresham(notes), 2010 Bengals draft picks, take care of the possession game, and Jerome Simpson(notes) covers the speedster detail. What the Bengals need going forward, especially with T.O. and Ocho most likely out of the picture, is that elite receiver to take the opponent’s No. 1 corner and speed safety out of the picture – often, at the same time. And with his aerial ability and vertical speed, that’s what Green brings to the field.
Three of the touchdowns in that San Diego game went for 10 yards or less, and on the one to Gresham, Palmer had to fit the ball in through several San Diego defenders to make the play. But in Georgia’s red zone situations, Green displayed a ridiculous sense of where to be, when to jump, and when to turn on the jets. These characteristics may have been best displayed in a sideline route in the end zone, where Green made a cartoonish one-handed catch for a touchdown with three defenders closing in during an October loss to Colorado.
On the play, Green stepped inside to fake, and then ran a fade (timing) route in which the press cornerback not only matched him step-for-step, but did a good job of gaining inside position on the play. In other words, a receiver with less ability to get in the air and make a play would have been boxed out. Not Green, however. In the end zone, he hit the air, put his arm up as high as possible to bring in a fade thrown too high for most, and somehow brought the ball in with one hand. Green then had the presence of mind to make sure he held onto the ball and came down in bounds.
It was a remarkable play for any receiver, but the truly remarkable thing about it for Green is that he’s made plays like that before. When you take that sort of unusual ability to stretch the play from a vertical perspective, you create a target that is nearly impossible to cover, and that’s why Green has been getting some Randy Moss(notes) comparisons. Adding that to what the Bengals already have makes a complete offense possible.
The Bengals selected TCU quarterback Andy Dalton(notes) in the second round as a future/emergency move, and head coach Marvin Lewis is saying all the right things about Dalton being ready to start in the NFL right away. However, Dalton’s tape tells a different story. The best move for all involved in Cincinnati is for Palmer to come off the mountain, make amends, and enjoy throwing to what should be one of the best young receiver corps in the league.
Doug Farrar is a writer for Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner blog and a senior writer for Football Outsiders.
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