As is hopefully obvious in the title, "First Year Lessons" will be a segment that covers what we learned from specific players and coaches. I hope to cover all the main coaches as well as a few players. Today we kick it off with OC Chris Palmer.
What We Learned:
He wasn't kidding when he said we were going to open up the offense. Palmer came in and installed an aerial attack that we haven't seen in Nashville in quite some time. Pass-oriented with strong connections to the Run & Shoot, Palmer's offense finally gave us an offense worthy of competing in today's NFL.
He's not afraid to keep passing even without his top options. Last year's main offensive targets were Nate Washington, Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins. All of these guys have had their moments, but none would be considered elite receivers in my opinion. With Williams and Hawkins being bumped down the depth chart, the have signaled what they think of the two enigmatic receivers. Still, I have to credit Palmer for implementing a pass system that had success even without top-tier receivers. After Britt's injury it would have been easy for Palmer to place all the emphasis on the run game and make his offense one dimensional.
About that run game...Chris Johnson's first year with Palmer was rough. The offensive line's blocking was terrible and Johnson struggled with reads. Plenty of the blame should be placed on those players, but it's up to Palmer to put his players in the best position to succeed. Johnson's going to see reduced carries as our passing game strengthens, but it's up to Palmer to allow CJ to have success on those plays. Jeff Fisher's offense relied heavily on giving CJ as many carries as needed before he'd bust open for a big run. Now, it's time to go for quality over quantity.
He's gutsy. Offensive coordinators are easy targets for fans, particularly when they call draws, runs or short passes on long "passing" downs. He's not afraid to call something that's used less often in those scenarios, trusting his players to make plays.
For this season, Palmer just needs to continue on the path he set out on in 2011. The passing game needs to make the next steps to an elite offense, especially with the return of Britt and addition of Kendall Wright. He doesn't need an elite running game, but it certainly needs to be improved.
Palmer also has been trusted with a pretty important project. Jake Locker needs to continue his adaptation to the NFL, making strides in his footwork and mechanics, as well as reading defenses. Palmer's put in a tough spot in this case. Palmer's work and success with Matt Hasselbeck is the appetizer before the main course. He's done some great things, but ultimately he'll be judged on