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Hobson's Choice: Palmer needs help, not knee

Q: Since the injury in the playoffs of 2005, Carson Palmer does not seem to be himself. After two ugly seasons and now a couple of very poor performances in the preseason, how concerned should fans be of his performance? There used to be a time when Carson would drop back and I would feel sure about a completion. Lately that feeling has been replaced with nervousness.
--Sean, Allentown, PA

SEAN: Judge Carson not by his knee, but by what people are doing around him. This offense is in trouble not because of him but because they don't and/or can't run the ball and this preseason he hasn't had the same caliber of wide receivers he's had since he's been here.

Since he ripped up the knee, only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Tony Romo have thrown more touchdown passes, he's had the first two 4,000-yard seasons in Bengals history, he's had a six-touchdown game, and he's been MVP of the Pro Bowl.

That's not a guy having trouble with his knee.

The stat that is concerning is after completing 67.8 percent of his passes in 2005, he's hit 63.7 percent since the surgery.

But that's not a medical case in my mind. That's directly related to his increase in pass attempts. In '05 he threw 509 times. In '06, when he was 62.3, he threw it 520, Last year he skied to 575 and still hit almost 65 percent.

You can't win throwing as much as they have the past two years and, yes, that's been dictated by as much circumstance (getting behind, injury) as well as trying to play to the strengths of the wide receivers.

Palmer has thrown the fourth most passes in the NFL the past two seasons. Two of the guys in front of him, Drew Brees and Brett Favre, went to conference championship games in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The other guy, Jon Kitna, hasn't gone anywhere with Detroit.

Brees has a solid stable of running backs and Favre had the 11th best defense. The Bengals simply aren't constituted like that and have to run the ball.

Chad, in his own words, admits he had a down year (we know all about the picks that he took the blame) and the hope before the shoulder injury was the ankle scope would make him a bit more comfortable and sharper.

Because Palmer hasn't had Chad and T.J. to throw to all spring and summer, things are obviously off. But it's not a QB issue.

And you can't get on Palmer about Sunday night against the Lions. He was on his back most of the time and the high pass he threw on which Chad got hurt had to be unloaded in a hurry because he had a guy in his face.

Whether it was because of a lack of game planning or the shuffling of the offensive line is anybody's guess. But he could have had three perfect knees out there and the result would have been the same.

Q: If the so-called Jurassic line is a better and more powerful line, why the hesitation to move Bobbie Williams to center now full-time? It seems like an inevitable move given our current weakness at the center position. I simply don't understand why the hesitation given Williams' apparent eagerness and Carson Palmer's endorsement of the move.
--Doug M., Cleveland, IN

DOUG: To quote the great Dave Lapham, a man who played all five line positions, you just don't show up and play center in a game. Ask Lapham, Mike Goff, even Rich Braham.

Marvin Lewis is insisting they are experimenting with this huge line because they have no clear-cut backup center and they need to find a combination if not only center Eric Ghiaciuc goes down, but if someone else gets hurt and they have to shuffle.

While Bengaldom has declared war on Ghiaciuc and his small frame against the AFC North monsters of Haloti Ngata, Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers, the Bengals have felt he didn't get blown up by the big guys and that his athleticism in getting to the linebacker level gave them the one thing they didn't have with Braham.

They'll point to stats that show the Bengals were in the top 10 in the NFL last season running the ball up the middle. The one concern they have with Ghiaciuc, and Lewis pointed this out in the offseason, is he needed to reach Braham's level of communication and recognition, and it wasn't so much a physical thing.

Braham started out as a guard and it took him awhile to become one of the top centers in the NFL, so it can be done with Williams. But it's not an overnight deal.

And after the way the protection broke down when Palmer was in there, you can say it's a more powerful line but can you say it's better right now? Certainly it is if Williams and Stacy Andrews adjust to their position switches because it gets four-time Pro Bowler Willie Anderson on the field at right tackle.

Their 99-yard drive against the Lions headed by Ryan Fitzpatrick was impressive, but it's a major overhaul to go to something like that and the season seems almost too close. Plus, they don't seem so anxious to discard Ghiaciuc.

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