Raiders thin at WR Wednesday


Raiders thin at WR Wednesday

ALAMEDA -- The fact that four of Oakland's six receivers were unable to practice Wednesday does not bode well for the Raiders.Jacoby Ford is still wearing a walking boot on the left foot he sprained on Nov. 10.Darrius Heyward-Bey is still feeling the after-affects of his scary-looking head-spine-concussion injury after taking a knee to the back of the helmet on Sunday.Denarius Moore showed up to practice wearing a walking boot on his right foot.And even recently-acquired T.J. Houshmandzadeh did not practice, though his absence was not injury-related. He was with his wife for the birth of their child.Still, Raiders coach Hue Jackson was wearing a happy, hopeful face following practice.
"It's a concern, but I think we have a chance to get some of these guys back toward the end of the week," Jackson said. "Am I concerned about it? Yeah. Anytime you don't practice it's tough. But I think we'll be O.K. Guys will keep working at it and by the end of the week, hopefully we'll have some of these guys back."Still, with the receiving corps so banged up, quarterback Carson Palmer sees it as an opportunity for another receiver, or two, to step up.Especially since Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens were the only healthy wideouts at practice on Wednesday."It makes it difficult," Palmer said. "You don't get the same guys on the field from the week before, that rhythm and timing thing slows down a little bit. So we have our work cut out for us. We're playing against a good groupand we're not going to have all our guys. But we've got guys that have been waiting for their opportunity and looking for a chance to step up and help this team. And guys are going to have to do that this week."Murphy has actually led the Raiders receivers in catches the past two seasons with a combined 75 catches. But his season has been short-circuited by sports hernia surgery he underwent in training camp."Just got to work back to 100 percent," said Murphy, who has only one catch this year, a 23-yard pickup against Denver on Nov. 6. "I've talked to coach Jackson and he knows, we both understand each other, what he's trying to do, what I need to do to get back to 100 percent. I've been getting a lot of snaps. I've just got to make plays when my number's called."When that opportunity comes, I just got to make the play."And Schilens' potential has been harped upon by the Raiders for at least two years. He has 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns.While Murphy and Schilens may not have the world-class speed of Ford and Heyward-Bey, the acrobatics of Moore or the resume of Houshmandzadeh, Murphy and Schilens showed Palmer a little something."I see it happen in practice, it happened three or four times today in practice, just running by people," Palmer said. "We've got speed and we've got fast guys that people know about. But there's other guys thatare fast."Chaz is 6-5 and once he opens up his stride he's as fast as any of them. Louis Murphy's a 4.3 guy. There's guys other than Jacoby that can run at the receiver position here, and we practice it. We work on it a lot."And if that doesn't work out, the Raiders have a receiver on the practice squad in Eddie McGee. Then there's the wild card -- Terrelle Pryor. Though that's more fantasy at this point.Ford being out, as well as rookie running back Taiwan Jones with a strained hamstring, have put a crimp in the kickoff return team's plans. Recently-signed Bryan McCann returned two kicks Sunday in Minnesota.And with Moore limping about, McCann and Murphy were fielding punts after practice on Wednesday.Ford, meanwhile, was still slogging around in his boot, though Jackson said that could change. And soon."He's very close to being out," Jackson said. "I think he's still in it for maybe one more day. I think he'll be out of that thing pretty soon. I'm sure he'll be excited about that."Not as excited as the Raiders themselves will be.

Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs


Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs

ALAMEDA – NaVorro Bowman was a sponge this week, absorbing the Raiders defense as quickly as possible.

The veteran inside linebacker signed with the Raiders Monday afternoon and did enough to play Thursday night’s pivotal home game against Kansas City.

That’s a huge plus for a Raiders team looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Bowman should be able to help right away despite being new to the scheme.

“He’s a veteran. He understands ball,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday. “We haven’t tried to install the entire playbook, but specific game plans and things. He’s had a good week. Even though it’s a short week, we feel good and he’ll play.”

He’ll probably start at inside linebacker and play the base defense as least. While many have criticized his speed and coverage skills diminished from major injuries, Bowman remains a sure tackler who can provide solid on-field leadership.

Veteran savvy and natural ability should carry Bowman while he masters a new scheme, allowing him to make the immediate impact required with the Raiders reeling at 2-4.

“He is very instinctive,” Del Rio said. "He’s a veteran guy that’s been there before. He understands what it looks like to lineup against a good football team and help us win.”

Bowman’s fresh and healthy, a step above his others at his position. Inside linebackers Cory James (knee), Marquel Lee (ankle) and Nicholas Morrow (ankle) are all questionable heading into Thursday’s game.

He has also been a willing teacher to a group of inside linebackers featuring a second-year pro and three rookies.

“They’re just soaking it up,” Del Rio said. “They’ll ask, ‘When do you lift? How often do you lift? When do you meet? When do you cover this?’ It’s good stuff to have for a really young group.”

In other injury news, right tackle Marshall Newhouse is out, leaving Vadal Alexander to start in his spot. David Sharpe should be the swing tackle in reserve.

Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’


Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’

ALAMEDA – Todd Downing has friends with fantasy football teams. Those faux general managers, like many across the roto world, took Raiders with high draft picks.

They would like to know why Derek Carr isn’t throwing touchdowns in bulk, Amari Cooper’s in a slump and Marshawn Lynch isn’t getting more carries.

“I have friends that have him on their fantasy team that are mad at me for that,” Downing said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s part of the business.”

Ah, the life of an NFL coordinator. Players get credit when things go right. Play callers sit over a Bunsen burner the rest of the time.

Downing understands that part of this gig.

“I welcome the responsibility that this job has afforded me,” he said. “I understand that I’m going to have to deal with negative comments and consequences when things aren’t going well. I’m looking forward to standing up here in a more positive fashion some time soon.”

Positives were expected right away. He was given the keys to a Lamborghini with a franchise quarterback under center, 1,000-yard receivers on each flank, an older back considered among the best of his generation, and the NFL’s biggest and most expensive offensive line.

The Raiders ranked No. 6 in total offense before adding Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Now they’re 30th heading into Thursday night’s game against Kansas City.

The mob is lighting torches, armed with pitchforks. After six weeks.

Everyone has an opinion on what’s wrong and how to fix this offense. More interior runs, less outside zone. More play action, please. Go deep, a lot. Have Derek hold on to the ball longer. Have Derek get rid of it quick. Do all that at once. Do it now.

Downing’s going to stick with his system. The Raiders will stick with their process, thank you very much, with faith that things will turn.

“When you look at the tape, you can see that we’re so close on so many things,” Downing said. “I know that sounds cliché and I know that sounds like someone sitting up here and trying to give you the rose-colored glasses, but it’s the truth. We know that we’re just this close to making a couple more plays each game and being able to come out on top and feeling like we put together a good product.

“…We’re looking for answers right now, but we know those answers exist in our room and in our scheme. Once we hit our stride, we’re excited to see what it looks like.”

There’s reason to believe that can happen. Take the season’s first two games, for example. The Raiders scored 71 points in that span. There’s talent everywhere in the starting lineup and behind it.

That’s why concern reigns during a four-game losing streak where the offense is averaging 13.1 points. They can’t sustain drives, come through on third down or block consistently in the run game. Their play count is dismally low. According to the Associated Press, the Raiders aver averaging 54 plays per game. Every other team has at least 60. The 2005 49ers were the last team that averaged such a sum. The Raiders haven’t had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver.

Offense is blamed for a dismal 2-4 start. Even the universally beloved Carr has taken some heat for lackluster performances.

“I don’t think there’s a single guy that can look back over the last few weeks and say, ‘You know what, I’m really pleased with how I’ve played over the last three weeks,’ or, ‘Called the last three weeks’ or, ‘Coached my position the last three weeks.’ We all own this together,” Downing said. “There’s no one guy that is going to save it or break it or anything in between. We need to do this as a team and everybody needs to make the plays they’re afforded the opportunity to make and I need to call the right plays when afforded the opportunity to call them.”

The Raiders can and must do better before falling further. Righting the ship too late to reach the season’s goals might hurt as much as a completely dismal campaign.

Pressing, however, isn’t the answer.

“You do have to stay patient,” Downing said. “I tell the offense this every week, but it’s never been more true than where we’re at now as an offense. We have a belief in what we’ve done this far, and the system we’ve put in place, and the playmakers we have in that room, and the coaches that are up in the room with me, and you will never see me waiver in my belief of any single one of those guys, including myself. If I did, and I started acting different or started calling games differently, then that would mean I didn’t really believe in the first place.”