Usually, it's the Bengals' offensive line or lack of receivers and tight ends that draws criticism in Cincinnati. But this offseason the team surrounded Palmer with perhaps his best supporting cast, including free agent Terrell Owens and high draft picks Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley.
Now fingers are starting to point in the direction of Palmer, who ranks 22nd in passer rating, 26th in completion percentage and 29th in yards per attempt this season. Is the $100 million quarterback holding back Cincinnati's offense? We checked in with Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson on Thursday to find out.
How much blame does Palmer deserve for Cincinnati's offensive struggles?
Williamson: He looks absolutely terrible, and I think it's him. I don't know if it's all the injuries -- the elbow, the knee and the thumb -- and each is taking a little bit away from him. But Palmer doesn't throw the football anything like he used to. He's making bad decisions, which is unlike him. Palmer thinks he can get the ball in better than he can, and the ball doesn't get there with the same velocity as the version of five years ago. Defenses are breaking on the ball, and he probably had five or six interceptions dropped already. Palmer could've had way worse numbers, and he's fortunate he didn't have more balls picked off. It's also pretty obvious he's had issues with communication with Chad Ochocinco and T.O. and very few deep pass plays are called.
How would you rate the pass protection Palmer is getting?
MW: I would say average. The offensive line was built to be the biggest, baddest group in the AFC North. I thought they accomplished that last year. They were the most physical team in the division last year. The offensive line is all big, heavy, run-blocking first type of guys. Andrew Whitworth isn't your usual left tackle, but he's a big guy to run behind. That's pretty much the case all along the offensive line. They stress size as opposed to movement. I would say their protection is never going to be wonderful, because they're just not very agile. They are built for the power running game.
Has Palmer lost sight of his fundamentals?
MW: Yeah, but it's almost like it's injury-induced. Every quarterback, like a pitcher, generates power from his toes all the way up through his legs and hips to the shoulder and the elbow through the fingers. If one link in that chain isn't sustaining or doing its job, you can see why he loses so much on his throws. And Palmer may have more than one link in the chain not doing its job.