Technical backup

Posted Sep 7, 2010

Jordan Palmer

Jordan Palmer’s first day as the Bengals No. 2 quarterback ended with a little extra work Monday. So it wasn’t that much different than his days as the No. 3.

Wide receivers Andre Caldwell and Quan Cosby wanted to run five routes after practice when they were at their most tired and like he has since he’s been here, Palmer is anxious to take on anything that takes him to the next level.

“Carson doesn’t just want to be the starting quarterback; he has other goals,” Palmer says. “So do I. I want to keep moving up in the league.”

For the first time in his life Jordan is now the immediate backup to his big brother. That came courtesy of Sunday’s move that brought Bears rookie quarterback Dan LeFevour into the mix off waivers when the Bengals cut incumbent No. 2 J.T. O’Sullivan.

Big brother is watching. Particularly how quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese took him from that first day in 2008 to Monday.

“Drastically,” Carson says of Jordan’s improvement. “A lot of that is Coach Zampese’s work. Jordan came from a college offense where nothing carries over to the NFL. (Zampese) worked on his throwing motion, his mechanics, his drops, his play-action. He worked with him on everything and really transformed Jordan into what it would take to be a successful quarterback. Jordan deserves some credit, too, because he put in the work, but Coach Zampese molded him and really fine-tuned all the things. So comparing him to his first year in the league … he’s an NFL quarterback now.”

Don’t look now, but Zampese has another project in front of him. Like Jordan Palmer, out of Texas-El Paso in 2007, LeFevour, out of Central Michigan in 2010, is a sixth-round pick. Like Palmer, he comes out of a spread offense where the quarterback always worked out of the shotgun.

“Both guys are pretty similar. Both are end-of-draft picks fighting their rear ends off to make a living at this,” Zampese said after Monday’s practice. “It’s a very similar situation to what they have in Indy. Keep the first guy going and get the other guys going as fast as we can.”

The Colts No. 2 is also a spread guy taken in the sixth round (2009), Purdue’s Curtis Painter, and thanks to Indy wrapping things up early last year he was able to throw 28 passes as a rookie. He completed only 28 percent of them as the project continues.

“It’s what is coming out of the college game now,” Zampese said. “All these guys are coming out of spread stuff.”

After watching Jordan Palmer work in Indianapolis last Thursday night throwing two touchdown passes on 10-of-14 passing that translated into a 135.1 passer rating, Zampese saw improvement from that tough first night against Dallas. Not to mention from that game just five days before in Buffalo when Palmer threw to the wrong side and it resulted in an interception touchdown return.

“His last game was better than his first games; it’s fun to see the confidence,” Zampese said. “There’s so much to like about him. It’s fun to watch him because he’s sure of himself. He knows where everything is going to be. He’s confident he can get it done. He carries himself with the right demeanor and you’ve got to like a guy like that.”

It is a confidence that has come from learning the pro game from scratch. That’s what Carson Palmer admires about what his brother has done. Jordan Palmer figures he didn’t throw one checkdown pass during his free-wheeling college days in an offense as open as Texas.

“He’s improved on his accuracy as well as he has understanding the game plans,” Carson says. “It’s hard to come in from the spread offense and just throwing the ball every play to now you have hots (blitz reads). You have rotation reads. You have plays that convert to different routes against different coverages. He’s gained as much ground in that area as he has in his mechanics and throwing the ball.”

Jordan Palmer views Zampese as a technical wunderkind, the guy who has kept Carson Palmer’s textbook mechanics pretty much in place in seven seasons of both physical and mental wear and tear at the highest level. For Zampese, the mental game has to catch up with the mechanics.

Jordan Palmer’s improvement, Zampese says, comes from grasping the playbook.

“Just getting him comfortable with our terminology to where he can see it before it actually happens so he can anticipate it and then at the same time be in position to make those throws," Zampese said. “It’s kind of mental and physical all at the same time.”

Now here comes LeFevour and, like Jordan Palmer in Washington, he had one training camp elsewhere before he got cut. The one good thing is that many of the concepts Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz uses are in this passing game from Zampese’s days working under Martz in St. Louis. Zampese has good notes from when he worked out LeFevour at Central Michigan back in the spring.

“He had great command of his own situation. He knew every in and out of his offense,” Zampese said. “How it was going to happen. He could speak it in a no-huddle situation. He walked me through it on film and we did it on the field. It was a real thorough day getting to know him and his football mind. He’s very versatile and a bright guy. He comes highly recommended.”

He is also coming from scratch.

Carson Palmer has seen that before.

“There’s no better place he could be than Coach Zam,” Palmer said. “He’ll get him straight.”


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