May 15, 2012; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws a pass at organized team activities at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Make or Break Year For Darren McFadden, Carson Palmer

Nobody doubts the collective talent of Darren McFadden and Carson Palmer. When both are on their game there are few that are better in the business. Problem is that last sentence started with ‘when’. We still have yet to see these two take the field together during an NFL contest so asking when is very appropriate.

For McFadden the problem as we all know is his health. Whatever you want to call it, bad luck, the injury bug, being fragile, McFadden has got it.

Last season Run DMC was on pace to lead the league in rushing and total yards from scrimmage before his freakish foot injury occurred. It seems like he’s always recovering from some sort of ailment. Keep in mind last season began with McFadden missing much of camp due to another freakish injury as he suffered a broken orbital bone…while wearing a helmet!

What I’m getting at is it will be frightening to see what McFadden can do at full strength. We’re talking MVP discussion and potential argument for greatest Raider ever. Although it’s going to take a Lombardi to two before we can put McFadden in the silver and black G.O.A.T. discussion. Put that on the backburner with the heat on low for now.

All that said, 2012 is pretty much the last year in which the Raiders can afford to pin their hopes on McFadden staying healthy. That’s not to say the team will move on from McFadden if he again misses a large portion of the season. However they will have to consider adding a more reliable runner who can play the Michael Bush role while contemplating a reduced role for the explosive yet snake bitten McFadden.

Now if the only question we have of McFadden is his health then Carson Palmer should be seriously concerned going into 2012. For Palmer it’s not a question of his health, it’s all about his game.

Last season saw Palmer embark on one of the most unique odysseys we’ve ever seen in pro football. He refused to play for the Bengals opting for retirement and walking away from countless millions to prove his point. The season started and it was as if Palmer was planning for the next phase of his life. Hue Jackson came calling, the Raiders traded away their future and Palmer played well enough for Oakland to finish .500 for a second straight season. Not a great return on investment as nobody trades away two potential first-round picks for a guy just to be better than Kyle Boller.

Obviously the price paid for Palmer puts a premium on how well he needs to perform. But beyond that the Raiders have a collection of young offensive talent sure to be the envy of many QBs around the league. Palmer just doesn’t have the built in excuses his Oakland signal calling predecessors did.

For Palmer 2012 is all about proving he’s still among the NFL elite at the quarterback position while also backing his claim of the Raiders being Super Bowl contenders. I’m not quite ready to jump on the Super Bowl bandwagon being built in the East Bay but if this team can make the playoffs then anything is possible. As we’ve seen in recent history, so long as you’re in the postseason football tournament then you’ve got a chance.

As if Palmer doesn’t have enough stress he’s got to learn a new offense while also impressing his new boss, Reggie McKenzie, who has no problem pulling the rug from under players he didn’t hand pick.

2012 will be a year that goes a long way in determining the future of the franchise. Both McFadden and Palmer have the talent to be franchise cornerstones. But both have questions and concerns that greatly affect the team’s chances of climbing the ladder and moving up in the AFC standings. Another season of injury for McFadden and another inconsistent showing by Palmer could put this team into full rebuild mode. A successful showing by both might make McKenzie go for broke in hopes of just winning now, baby!

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Tags: Carson Palmer Darren McFadden Hue Jackson Kyle Boller Michael Bush Reggie McKenzie

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