Saturday, June 12, 2004

QB Palmer asserts himself more


Has impressed offensive coordinator Bratkowski

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Carson Palmer's development as the Bengals' starting quarterback has reached a key milestone and is about to pass another one.

"He's gotten on me before. He'll tell me to take (a pass route) a little deeper," Pro Bowl wide receiver Chad Johnson said Friday, as the Bengals opened their three-day, six-practice mandatory minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium.

"He'll cuss me out in a minute," Johnson said of Palmer.

Swearing at a teammate would seem out of character for the mild-mannered Palmer.

"Well, not yet," Johnson said, "but I'm sure I'll drive him to that point."

[img]
Carson Palmer works out on the first day of Bengals mimicamp.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
The Bengals are all smiles because Palmer - three months after coach Marvin Lewis appointed him starter - is showing significant growth as an NFL quarterback.

"The basic things, the presence in the huddle, the ability to hear a play, repeat it in the huddle and fix something that I might have called wrong - such as the protection to one side instead of the other, being able to fix those," offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said. "All those are areas where you can see progress and his command of understanding what we're doing - the formation, who's lining up where, who's running what route."

Palmer is no stranger to the quarterback position. As he said Friday, he has been playing it for 15 years. The 2002 Heisman Trophy winner is fulfilling his destiny to play quarterback professionally. What's new are adjusting the speed of the NFL game and learning the terminology the Bengals use offensively.

"French," quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said, "it's French class. He's learning the language."

Oui.

Promoted ahead of Jon Kitna, who had a career season in 2003 for the Bengals, Palmer said the difference is the number of practice plays he gets. Instead of watching, he's doing.

"Confidence with the offense," Palmer said, when asked the area in which he thinks he has improved most since March. "It was really tough to be confident in the offense and confident in where guys were going to be, because my reps were so sparse. I was getting two or three reps here and there. I know exactly where Chad is going to be in this play. In the running game, I know exactly which hole (tailback) Rudi (Johnson) is trying to hit."

Palmer knows the playbook, his teammates say.

"He knows what he's doing. He's not like situations we had here in the past where people, coaches and personnel people were questioning if a guy knew what he was doing," right tackle Willie Anderson said in reference to former first-round quarterback Akili Smith. "I don't think it's the case with (Palmer)."

Palmer, on his own over the winter, studied tapes of successful NFL quarterbacks Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

"How they controlled the game, clock management," Palmer said. "It's for your own good. It is fun, but if you don't do it, you're going to be embarrassed on Sunday."

Ball fakes and not tipping a target by staring at a receiver are other characteristics Palmer studied.

"You learn this stuff from the beginning of high school - play-action, how to use your eyes to get guys open - but you've got to be perfect at it," Palmer said. "You have to know it cold. You can't half-effort it. You have to make it look real. Guys in the league are too good."

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




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