Stretch Of Gunslingers Approaching


Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer threw 61 passes Sunday against Tampa Bay.

And he could do the same this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Palmer's arrival will begin a stretch of opposing gunslingers over the next four weeks, and generally the second half of the season.

In the next month, the Ravens will face Palmer, then Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, San Diego's Philip Rivers and Roethlisberger again. Weeks 15 and 16 will feature each of the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli, respectively.

The Ravens will face a Pro Bowl quarterback in six of their remaining eight games.

Is Baltimore's secondary, which ranks 22nd in the NFL (246.8 yards per game), up to the test?

Head Coach John Harbaugh said he saw improvement in Sunday's game in Cleveland.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden completed just 20 of 37 passes for 176 yards. He went 25-for-25 for 320 yards in his first meeting with the Ravens, and that's when cornerback Lardarius Webb was still on the field.

"We did see growth. We did a better job," Harbaugh said. "It's not just the secondary, it's the whole coverage package."

Harbaugh said the Ravens still need to continue to build on picking up underneath routes, which are primarily handled by linebackers or safeties. They also need to do a better job of maintaining eye discipline down the field.

But starting cornerback Cary Williams has rebounded from a rough start to notch four interceptions in his past five games and Jimmy Smith is getting more experience under his belt. He didn't surrender any deep completions, or double moves, to Cleveland.

"Cary is a competitor. Cary is a fighter," Harbaugh said. "Cary wants to do well so badly, and he's kind of an emotional guy, and that's one of the things that I love about him.

"He's done a great job of focusing that emotion and that energy on playing technique, where you've got to do everything exactly right. You've got to play with so much discipline out there. He's got great skills, so to me, he just keeps getting better, and I'm proud of him."

Williams will likely see a lot of action this Sunday. Palmer has the fifth-most passing attempts in the NFL. His 2,355 passing yards are the 10th-most in the NFL, only five yards behind the Falcons' Matt Ryan.

Palmer partially threw so much because the Raiders were playing from behind for nearly the entire second half. It was also because Oakland didn't have a healthy running back.

Starter Darren McFadden and backup Mike Goodson both suffered high ankle sprains in the game. Their status for Sunday's game in Baltimore is in question.

The Raiders have just one other running back on the roster, speedster Taiwan Jones out of Eastern Washington. Jones has 17 career rushing attempts for 75 yards (4.4 yard average).

So Palmer could be airing it out again.

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