Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Teflon Carson?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

After reading two more NFL talking heads providing convenient excuses for Carson Palmer's late-season collapse, I wondered last week why everyone was so quick to deflect blame from this formerly elite quarterback.

Palmer's nationally televised fiasco in the playoff loss to the Jets brought his woes into the spotlight, but this was hardly a new issue. Just prior to that game, I compared the late-season version of Palmer unfavorably to Chad Pennington while noting that he had bypassed Eli Manning as the most overrated player in the league.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, I had heard the whispers of Bengals fans questioning the health of Palmer's elbow since training camp. By mid-December, when it should have been obvious to anybody watching that something was troubling Palmer physically, the Bengals quarterback sold ESPN's Chris Mortensen on his elbow being "101 percent." Almost a month after that report (and after two brutal performances against the Jets), Mortensen and Jets coach Rex Ryan insisted that Palmer remained an elite quarterback and a superstar.

It's now mid-February, and two more articles surfaced Thursday casting blame on the Cincy receivers, tight ends, and offensive line while glossing over the obvious liability under center. How are so many analysts missing Palmer's loss of accuracy and arm strength when even coach potatoes are picking up on it?

Seeking a definitive answer to the Bengals' offensive woes, I contacted my friend Brad Spieser, who worked for years as a sports-talk radio producer in Cincinnati. Spieser remains my go-to authority on all things Bengals-related. Below are his thoughts on the subject:

  • Chad Ochocinco is 100 percent the player he was five years ago. He was open all season despite no help at the other receiver spot and a quarterback who couldn't throw deep -- or with precision.

  • Palmer's elbow must be injured. Last offseason, for the second time in his career, he rejected elbow surgery and elected for rehab. He then spent the 2009 season sailing throws over the heads of his receivers. At the same time, the golden-armed former No. 1 overall pick had astonishingly lost his deep ball. "This was before it got ugly later in the year," said Spieser, "when he had no zip on any of his passes and was sailing many of his short throws. Granted, Palmer has never been a great leader, but that had nothing to do with suddenly possessing a Chad Pennington arm at crunch time."

    All of which begs the question: How is Palmer's arm going to get fixed without surgery this offseason? We're all stuck with that conundrum when assessing the Bengals' offensive potential for 2010. I find it hard to believe this is something that will improve with rest and rehab after the same treatment last offseason didn't bring him close to 100 percent. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I'm expecting another run-heavy offense with a scattershot quarterback next season.

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  • The Bengals and Titans are "competing" for Matt Jones, both teams reportedly offering one-year deals near the veteran league minimum. On pace for 80 receptions before his three-game suspension kicked in late in 2008 (and his subsequent black-balling in 2009), Jones would be a nice addition for either offense. The Bengals are considered the leader in the clubhouse.

  • Steve Slaton will avoid contact until training camp after undergoing serious neck surgery in mid-January. His four-to-six month recovery timetable is highly optimistic, and the surgery is a real concern for an NFL running back taking a dozen collisions per game. Owner Bob McNair confirmed Wednesday that upgrading the backfield will be a priority in this year's draft.

  • Reggie Bush is not expected to be amenable to a pay-cut this offseason, and the Saints don't particularly want to shell out $8 million for a role player. Both sides realize his value is greatest in New Orleans even if he'd be highly sought after on the open market. Expect the Saints to delicately ask him to restructure while perhaps offering to extend his deal as a sweetener.

  • The Jags released veterans Torry Holt, Tra Thomas, and Rob Meier – as expected. Holt, who reportedly disliked Jacksonville's offense, will still struggle to find a job on the open market. Slot receiver Mike Thomas is the favorite to ascend to his starting job, though the team could seek a replacement in free agency or the draft.

    Quick Slants: The Giants released MLB and defensive captain Antonio Pierce, who insists that MRI results revealed no problems with the bulging disk in his neck. … Bucs WLB Geno Hayes, a breakout player in 2009, will be sidelined 3-4 months after undergoing surgery to repair a labrum he tore in the season finale. … Beat writer Mike Triplett doesn't see LaDainian Tomlinson as a fit in the Saints backfield. … ESPN'S Ron Jaworski believes Matt Forte went into the 2009 season "heavy" after a bad offseason. … Jaworski also broke down all of Jay Cutler's 26 interceptions, attributing exactly zero of them to poor pass protection. … ESPN's John Clayton said Thursday that he's "convinced" the Eagles will end up trading Donovan McNabb this offseason. … According to, "there's a belief in league circles" that Brett Favre will ultimately return to the Vikings for one more season.

  • Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
    Email :Chris Wesseling

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