By Sam McPherson
As they prepare to play the Cleveland Browns on the road this weekend, the Oakland Raiders have four key injuries on defense they can ill afford as they try to win their first game of the season.
The 0-6 Raiders could be missing as many as two defensive ends and two secondary players, which is a shift from the usual linebacking injuries the team has been facing in 2014. The poor Silver & Black just can't field a healthy, strong defensive unit to save their lives this year.
Overall, Oakland has eight players listed at questionable or out for the game on Sunday.
Free safety Usama Young (knee) is out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL. Combined with the earlier loss of Tyvon Branch, the Raiders' weak secondary gets even flimsier now. Look for the Browns to exploit this weakness as much as possible with their passing game this weekend.
Likewise, defensive end LaMarr Woodley is out for the season with a torn bicep. Another one of General Manager Reggie McKenzie's silly offseason acquisitions, Woodley had five tackles in six games this year—and no sacks. Remember, the Raiders signed him for two years and $12 million, but he'll probably be waived in the offseason.
(Since the Raiders are so weak on defense, maybe it makes sense for them to sign free agent Michael Sam now and give him a chance at playing in a regular-season NFL game. Why not? It can't hurt the team at all.)
Defensive end Justin Tuck was inactive last week for the game against the Arizona Cardinals, and he's been limited in practice this week with the knee issue. Like Woodley, he was signed in the offseason, but Tuck hasn't done much to justify his presence or salary on this defense.
(Again, why not sign Sam and give him a shot? He was SEC Defensive Player of the Year, after all. Sam must have some athleticism.)
Cornerback Carlos Rogers made five tackles last week against the Cards, but his knee troubles kept him from practicing on Wednesday—and Rogers was limited on Thursday in practice. Chances are he will play, because he hasn't missed a game yet this year, but clearly he's nursing some challenges with his leg joint.
These are four players who were expected to do something this year for the team, and the Raiders can't get much thinner on defense with all these injuries. Even so, backup cornerback Keith McGill will probably be inactive against after not practicing this week with his groin injury. He hasn't played since Week Four in London.
Offensively, the Raiders also can't afford injuries, but at least on that side of the ball, Oakland is still functioning at times.
Although he's played in every game so far, tight end David Ausberry has just two catches—and he hasn't practiced this week at all due to an injured foot. Don't expect him on the field Sunday in Cleveland.
Wide receiver Vincent Brown's hamstring has limited him in workouts this week, but he, too, has been a minimal contributor to the Raiders offense this season with just three catches. He hasn't played since Week Four, either.
Finally, running back Marcel Reece has a bad hamstring which limited him in practices both Wednesday and Thursday. He missed last week against Arizona, but you know the veteran fullback in just itching to get back on the field this Sunday. Look for him to make it out there if he can.
- Tight end David Ausberry (foot)
- Wide receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring)
- Cornerback Keith McGill (groin)
- Running back Marcel Reece (quad)
- Cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee)
- Defensive end Justin Tuck (knee)
- Defensive end LaMarr Woodley (bicep)
- Safety Usama Young (knee)
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.
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