Will The Youth Movement At Wide Receiver Give Carson Palmer A Second Wind For His Career?

CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 26: Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium on December 26 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. The Bengals 34-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Without Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, Carson Palmer recorded a career-high 157.2 passer rating against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Palmer obviously lost the game, recording three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. Against the Cleveland Browns, Palmer did just enough not to lose the game, completing 60.9% of his passes. No touchdowns were thrown, but neither were any interceptions. We call that a draw. And against the San Diego Chargers, who came into Sunday's game with the league's best passing defense, Palmer introduces Jerome Simpson -- and reintroduces Andre Caldwell -- in a career game with two receivers that came into Sunday's game with 79 combined receptions in their career.

We've argued for the past month that many of Palmer's struggles are the result of locking into receivers like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, forcing passes where he had no reason to make. In the past two games, due to injuries, he's forced to distribute the ball more evenly amongst other receivers. Here's the breakdowns.

Pass Distribution In Previous Two Games (Browns, Chargers)
Receiver Targets % Of Palmer's Attempts
Jerome Simpson 10 23%
Andre Caldwell 11 25%
Jermaine Gresham 8 18%
Jordan Shipley 5 11%

Let's compare that through the season's first 13 games of the year, with Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.

Pass Distribution Through First 13 Games Of 2010
Receiver Targets % Of Palmer's Attempts
Chad Ochocinco 123 25%
Terrell Owens 139 28%
Jermaine Gresham 73 15%
Jordan Shipley 63 13%

You can make whatever conclusion you'd like. But in the past two games, the passing distribution is squeezing closer together between the first and third receivers, with tight end Jermaine Gresham being that third receiver. Additionally, we visually see Palmer going through his progressions, rather than locking into a receiver like Terrell Owens, which often allowed opposing defenses to follow Palmer's eyes and picking off his pass, or at the very least, generating a pass breakup between three defenders. Twice Palmer launched a deep pass to two different receivers at different points during Sunday's game without the need to worry about accommodating superstar wide receivers.

Again, make whatever conclusion you want. Such as the past two games not being enough to generate a refill of patience in Palmer, who hasn't provided fans with much reason to keep supporting him through this season and even late last year. At the same time, if the past two games gives you a reason to sit back and believe that a new core of wide receivers is just what Palmer needs to rebound into a second wind for his career, I won't blame you for that point of view either.

At the end of Sunday's game, Carson Palmer said, "I felt like a kid." One thing is certain, he looked like his old self because of the kids around him.

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