Posted: 7:30 a.m.
J.T. O'Sullivan, the taciturn veteran, and Jordan Palmer, the voluble youngster, look like they're going to do all the talking Thursday night with all signs pointing to the Bengals silencing quarterback Carson Palmer with his mildly sprained left ankle in the second preseason game Thursday night against the Patriots in Foxboro, Mass.
With what would be his ninth start since last September, it's another chance for O'Sullivan to separate himself from young Palmer for the No. 2 spot. And there was a lot to talk about after he hit nine of 11 passes for 100 yards and the team's lone touchdown in New Orleans Friday night to put the efficiency in his 134.8 passer rating.
But don't go crossing Jordan off any future lists. After toiling as the No. 3 last year in his first full NFL season in which he threw just 12 passes compared to O'Sullivan's 220 in San Francisco, Palmer feels the difference is "night and day," after an offseason of intensive work with Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.
The sessions with Zampese, Jordan Palmer feels, have not only made him sharper and more confident, but have also given him more insight on why his brother is as good as he is.
"Carson is regarded, arguably, as having the best mechanics in the league," said Jordan earlier this week after practice, recalling that his brother has always been regarded as a mechanical messiah.
"He could have come into the league with the greatest mechanics ever. It doesn't matter," he said. "If you don't get coached on that, if you don't work on that and there's an outside source directing you, you're going to slip. His mechanics have gotten better and he was the No. 1 pick in the draft. So he's gotten better and that's Ken Zampese."
After "grabbing me by the shirt," Jordan Palmer says Zampese has tweaked enough with his shoulders and hips so that his 6-5, 235-pound frame has better balance when he throws.
"We worked on balance, footwork, release and we went through it slowly," Zampese said. "We took a lot of reps with one thing at a time. We'd try this, try, try this, tinker with it and we found out what worked for him.
"Get lined up where you're throwing the ball. For big guys, it's harder to get open (in the hips) for whatever reason. Just longer levers. They just need to put more attention to get lined up to use all that power. There's the balance part if it, too. You can't throw it there unless you're faced there."
Jordan thinks the sessions have also contributed to his enhanced awareness at the line of scrimmage. During this season he can't remember fouling up a hot read or finding the middle backer "and that's a tribute to him," he said of Zampese.
Jordan is embracing this game because it's his first look at a 3-4 defense, but he knows the Patriots get into a 4-3 on some passing downs so he's looking forward to having those recognition skills tested.
While he feels much more balanced, Jordan says he's never seen Carson look better. From his mechanics to his conditioning to his accuracy.
"As far as strength and athleticism," Jordan said. "He had a huge offseason in July improving his strength and balance. He's throwing the ball on balance more than I've ever seen him. He's obviously got a big arm, but when you throw on balance you're going to be more accurate."
Jordan moved the Bengals sporadically in the second half against the Saints without a score, and that bugged him. He hit seven of 11 passes for 59 yards, but his one interception came off the hands of wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
"We didn't even get into the red zone, let alone score," he said. "If I'm in there with the third (team) guys, then I'm playing against third guys, so we should be able to move the ball down the field and I feel like our third guys; (wide receivers) Freddie Brown and David Richmond and (running back) Marlon Lucky are good players. And I threw to Maurice (Purify) last season."
It was hard to miss what O'Sullivan did against the Saints. He not only had the efficiency, but he coaxed the Bengals' only points of the game out of the two-minute drill. Asked where he thinks the backup derby is, Palmer shrugged but saluted O'Sullivan's rating.
"I don't know what that quarterback rating is, but it was pretty damn perfect," Palmer said. "He's done everything. If we can both improve and show we're both really good enough to be the 2, then we've put ourselves in good position and put this team in good position."
O'Sullivan isn't blessed with a lot of regular-season time, either. He didn't play in a game in his first five years and he got his most snaps ever last year in his seventh year when he got benched after eight starts.
But he's had a lot of work in a lot of different offenses (eight), and there isn't anything he hasn't seen.
O'Sullivan, who turns 30 next week, is guarded but pleasant with the media and so it is when asked about this potential start.
"I would hope anyone in this league, especially a quarterback, would be prepared to play," he said. "It's probably a lot more fun than sitting and watching."
Zampese enjoyed watching him Friday night because O'Sullivan brought what Zampese knew he had when he put him near the top of his free-agency list following Ryan Fitzpatrick's departure to Buffalo. Moxie, instincts, and the sense that it wasn't too big for him.
But both and Palmer have to adhere to Zampese's checklist.
"Understanding where the ball is supposed to go against the looks on a pass play," Zampese said. "Accuracy. Being able to salvage the play when it breaks down with your feet. That may mean an incompletion or it may mean leaning forward for minus two, maybe a scramble touchdown throw. I've been impressed with both guys. They're very serious. They have accountability. They want the answers and they're not afraid to take the time to find the answers."
Jordan Palmer thinks he's only got one answer for Thursday night.
"We have to score," he said. "I can't turn it over and I have to be smart with the ball. But the biggest thing is to get it into the end zone a few times."