Darren McFadden still isn’t practicing and neither is Michael Bennett. That will leave a gaping hole for Michael Bush to reclaim the starting position, and for fellow backs Rock Cartwright and Marcel Reece to also step in for carries on Sunday.
The Raiders, ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing, will get the opportunity to either prove or disprove the theory that the San Diego Chargers rushing defense is as good as their top ranking suggests. Losing one of the top running backs this season in McFadden doesn’t help that mission much.
Lucky enough for the Raiders, Tom Cable thinks he’s got another running back gem in Michael Bush.
During his daily press conference, Cable said McFadden, “has been very productive so we’ve got to find a way to get that same production but I think Michael’s ready to take that load.“
Along with Bush, Cable will be counting on Cartwright to spell his starter when necessary. The nine-year veteran will have to be ready to be the back up at both the tailback and fullback spots since the Raiders expect both McFadden (hamstring) and Bennett (hamstring) to be sidelined this weekend. “I would say very questionable right now,” said Cable on the chance of either player hitting the field against the Chargers.
Bruce Gradkowski is certain to start despite being listed as ‘limited’ in practice. Asked if his injured A-C joint was still causing him problems, Cable said, “No he’s fine. He did most of it but since he didn’t do everything you have to say limited.”
That’s good news for the Raiders. Along with being the top-ranked rushing defense, San Diego ranks fourth against the pass as well — the Raiders are third. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told reporters on Thursday that while they’re concerned about a defense that registered nine sacks in a 41-10 plastering of the Cardinals last week, the Raiders’ offense is coming to the Coliseum with a plan to attack.
“We’re playing an opponent that does know how to get the quarterback down on the ground, but our quarterback also has got to be smart and get that ball out of his hand,” said Jackson. “Sometimes you’ve got to say, ‘I’m going to throw it away.’ Sometimes you might have to take a sack, based on the situation, but we’re going to go after this team. We’re not coming to the stadium worried or afraid of what’s going to happen. We’re going there to play, and that’s the way we play.”
It wouldn’t seem to be a good matchup for the Raiders’ offensive line. After four regular season games played, the big guys up front rank 29th in the NFL in sacks allowed (13), and 20th in QB hits (20), while the Chargers defense ranks fourth with 15 sacks.
Jackson said on Thursday that his quarterback was at least partially to blame on three of those sacks last Sunday. “We had three sacks that [Gradkowski] was directly involved in,” said the Raiders offensive coordinator. “That ball needs to come out, we got to make great decisions with the ball. That’s where I can help him, and he can help this football team. We got to do a better job to help our offensive line.”
In order to get that ball out faster, Gradkowski is going to need his receivers to also get open. Cable said he thinks there will be added pressure on his young wide receivers on Sunday. “They gotta play big,” Cable said about Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy.
“I definitely think they are going to get an opportunity. The plan is such that you do have to protect the quarterback with what they give you at outside linebacker, so they are going to have to play big. As well as the tight end,” Cable concluded.
McClain misses second straight practice
For the second day in a row, rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain missed practice due to a death in his family. Despite missing two practices, Cable said that he will still start on Sunday. His status as a starter could be due to his backup Ricky Brown also having hamstring issues. Cable said McClain was on a flight coming in Thursday night.
The rookie linebacker hasn’t exactly been the difference the Raiders had hoped he’d be when they drafted him. Specifically, McClain was drafted to shore up the run defense — which thus far is still a gaping hole. The Raiders lead the league in allowing runs of 20+ yards, with seven so far in just four games this year. Only Atlanta and Detroit have allowed two runs of 40+ yards this season like the Silver and Black.
While it’s hard to distinguish his assignment on passing plays, offenses have routinely thrown to tight ends and running backs over the middle and on more than a few occasions McClain appeared to be the man in coverage — including an easy touchdown near the goal line last Sunday.
McClain hasn’t had it easy off the field either. This week marks the second since the start of training camp that he’s had to go back home because of a death in the family. While it’s uncertain how much affect the passing of his family members have, or will have, on the rookie, the felony marijuana possession charges his brother is facing most likely weighs heavily on him. If convicted, his brother is facing a 10-year prison term.
Only time will tell if McClain can handle the ‘Mike’ in a 4-3 defense, but as of yet, his draft-day promise has yet to be fulfilled.
Robert Gallery could be back as early as Sunday
Cable is hopeful that Gallery could finally return to the starting lineup. “The workout was good this morning, so if we can get some work out of him tomorrow we’ll see what happens,” said Cable.
That’s still a big ‘if.’ Cable won’t hesitate to keep him out of the lineup if Gallery doesn’t look ready. The head coach said, “It depends on how the work goes. If it looks erratic and all that, it’s not worth doing that.”
Even though Gallery hasn’t practiced with the team, Cable said that he hopes that will change on Friday.
Quentin Jammer inspired by Raiders greats
In a Q&A with fans for the Chargers’ website, the ninth-year cornerback was asked who he looked up to at his position while he was growing up. This was his answer:
When I think about how the position is played, I think about Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes who played the position like a football player. Now they try to put labels on corners (such as) cover corners or tackling corners. I think those guys were football players playing corner. They could do it all. They were physical while doing it. Those were the guys who I tried to emulate my game after.
Injury report for Thursday
Did not practice:
Chaz Schilens (knee), Robert Gallery (hamstring), Michael Bennett (hamstring), Darren McFadden (hamstring), Walter McFadden (hamstring), Travis Goethel (lower back), Quentin Groves (hamstring), Thomas Howard (knee), John Henderson (foot)
Limited in practice:
Bruce Gradkowski (throwing shoulder) and Jeremy Ware (ankle)
Zach Miller (hip), Ricky Brown (hamstring), Hiram Eugene (hamstring), Chris Johnson (ankle)