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Evaluating change

Posted Nov 9, 2011

One of the most important tasks for the Chargers’ defense this week is to evaluate how the Raiders’ offense has evolved under new quarterback Carson Palmer. Oakland has made a couple other changes as well.

SAN DIEGO – The Raiders’ offense seems fluid at this point, one week into Carson Palmer’s time as Oakland’s starting quarterback.

Pro Bowl caliber running back Darren McFadden has missed the last few games, and leading receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey played just 12 snaps against Denver as Chaz Schilens replaced him in the starting lineup. The offense also is incorporating recent signee T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

In totality, the fluctuations make it important for San Diego to gauge the direction Oakland head coach Hue Jackson will take the offense.

“It’s what we’re trying to get a handle on,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “We’re working hard to get a good feel for what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it with (Palmer).

“They run the ball well and they’ve got explosive players on the outside. Carson’s capable of getting them the ball and he throws the ball deep extremely well.”

Oakland led the league in rushing early in the year but seemed to use a more expanded playbook in the passing game as Jason Campbell, who’s endured changing offenses almost every season back to his college days, benefitted from a rare (for him) second season in the same system.

A month ago, Palmer was throwing passes to whomever he could find in Orange County, Del Mar, Torrey Pines and Solana Beach, almost convinced he’d have to wait until next year to play. Suddenly the news of his trade came through, and less than a week later, he found himself jogging on the field to enter an NFL game off the bench down 21 points.

Jackson estimates Palmer is comfortable with about 70 percent of the playbook after cramming through the bye week and facing Denver on Sunday in his first start. But even if McFadden misses another game and Palmer continues to progress, San Diego expects the Raiders to try to run the football.

“Through the first three or four games, they were the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, so I think that’s something they’re going to want to get back to, knowing it’s a three-team tie between us, them and the Chiefs,” Donald Butler said. “Try to get back to something they’re comfortable with, and that’s going to be running the football.”

Michael Bush is a powerful backup, weighing 35 pounds more than McFadden and grinding down defenses with 4.2 yards per carry. Rookie Taiwan Jones fits the organization’s speed-first philosophy and is one of the team’s faster players. It’s an asset also claimed by many of their receivers, making it important to challenge them off the line of scrimmage, Paul Oliver said.

“They have Jacoby Ford, one of the more exciting return guys,” Oliver said. “ How much speed they have across the board (stands out).”

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