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Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell (8) and running back Darren McFadden (20) sit on the bench during their game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the third quarter at the O.co Stadium in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday, October 23, 2011. (Nhat V. Meyer/Mercury News)

The Raiders began preparation in earnest for the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, charting a new direction for the offense with Carson Palmer at quarterback.

Judging from the way Darren McFadden was struggling on crutches en route to the parking lot, their leading rusher won't be a part of it.

McFadden, who suffered a right midfoot sprain on his second carry against Kansas City on Oct. 23 and has been rehabbing since the bye week, still has his foot in a boot nine days after the injury.

Coach Hue Jackson wouldn't rule out McFadden for the Denver game Sunday at O.co Coliseum but allowed for the possibility of keeping him out until the Thursday night game in San Diego on Nov. 10.

Jackson and offensive coordinator Al Saunders are retooling the offense from what it was under Jason Campbell to accentuate Palmer's skills, with a new piece arriving at practice in veteran wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

"There are different strengths," Jackson said. "Obviously, I played to Jason's strengths and now I will play to Carson's strengths. I feel very good about where we are."

Palmer, who worked with Raiders receivers last week during two bye-week practices and two days afterward, said the difference in terms of command is dramatic.

"There's no comparison, this week to last Wednesday," Palmer said. "I'm comfortable with the entire playbook, comfortable with the guys, comfortable with the snap count, where to stand in the huddle. Every little bit I've been around here, every second I've had, I just learn more and more."


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Houshmandzadeh, 34, arrives with considerable experience as a slot receiver and is adept at finding open areas in the middle of the field and making difficult catches.

It's a role that in past years was filled by tight end Zach Miller, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks during free agency. His successor, Kevin Boss, is at his best running seam routes and getting a little deeper downfield.

In theory, Houshmandzadeh is the inside complement for younger, faster wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens.

"They're all fast, but they don't really have a guy who can work the middle of the field and run routes," Houshmandzadeh said. "I think I can bring that to the table. With those guys on the outside and the way Carson throws the ball and his ability to understand what a defense is trying to do, I think we can be really good if we put this thing together fast."

Palmer and Houshmandzadeh were teammates for six years in Cincinnati and have worked out together in the offseason after Houshmandzadeh left in free agency to the Seattle Seahawks and eventually the Baltimore Ravens.

"He knows more about offensive and defensive football than any non-quarterback I've ever been around," Palmer said. "He understands concepts, schemes, alignments, all the little things a lot of receivers overlook. It's going to be a big help for these young guys to have him around.

"I think just in the first day, they were kind of taken aback by how much he knows. For him to know the playbook in just his first day out, getting here late yesterday, it shows a lot about his football knowledge."

Houshmandzadeh, who is expected to play against Denver, conceded that an elbow injury had seemed to sap Palmer of his arm strength when the two worked out after the 2010 season. He said that is no longer an issue.

"Last summer the zip wasn't there," Houshmandzadeh said. "But this summer it was like, 'Wow, this is like Carson when we were rolling in Cincinnati.' "

Denver coach John Fox expects Palmer to make huge strides from the Raiders' 28-0 loss to Kansas City, when he was summoned from the bench with a 21-0 deficit and scant knowledge of the offense.

"Even though he's a new signee, he's been with Coach Jackson, they did a lot of good things together offensively," Fox told Bay Area reporters by conference call. "I think the bye week came at a pretty opportune time as far as getting a feel for his teammates."