By Sam McPherson
It's bad enough the Oakland Raiders have to travel to the East Coast for an early start time on Sunday, and it's even worse they have to do it against the New England Patriots—one of the best teams in the league, every year, it seems. But the Silver & Black are going to have to make this journey and play this game with a depleted defense, and consider the first two weeks of the 2014 season, that could be a disaster for the team.
The Raiders currently have seven players listed as questionable for the Sunday matchup, and five of those players are on defense. Oakland's run defense is the worst in the NFL so far this season, and with three of those defensive injuries to would-be starters in the front seven, the Patriots will probably start—and finish—the game by ramming the ball down the Raiders' throat.
Linebackers Sio Moore and Nick Roach would be huge losses to the Oakland defense: Moore hurt his ankle in the Week Two loss to Houston, while Roach has been out for awhile now with concussion issues. While Moore did not practice on either Wednesday or Thursday, Roach was a limited participant both days.
It's possible both players could suit up on Sunday, but at what risk? Moore is a second-year player with his whole career ahead of him, and Roach is the key signal caller on the Raiders defense. Since Oakland would probably lose this game anyway, even if both played, there seems to be little reason to risk further injury to either player right now in a lost cause.
To add further insult, defensive end Justin Tuck—one of the organization's key offseason acquisitions in an attempt to shore up the defense—did not practice on Wednesday and was a limited participant on Thursday, due to an unspecified illness. The former New York Giants standout hasn't registered a sack in two games with Oakland, and he has only eight tackles on the young season—Tuck posted 11 sacks for the Giants in 2013.
Take away those three players, and New England's running backs have to be licking their chops—as will quarterback Tom Brady, who has seen enough of Tuck to last a lifetime (the Patriots QB was sacked a combined four times by Tuck in two Super Bowl losses).
Beyond the front seven, the Raiders also are injured at cornerback, where nickelback Chimdi Chekwa (knee) is questionable. He was a limited participant in practice this week, and even though he played last week—registering four tackles and one pass defensed—Chekwa obviously isn't at 100%. Neither is starting corner Carlos Rogers: he didn't practice Wednesday and was limited on Thursday with a knee problem, as well.
As noted above, the Raiders don't necessarily want to expose any of these players to risk on Sunday, so if they don't play, it may be for the best long-term.
On the offensive side of the ball, there is better news: after missing Week 2 and not practicing on Wednesday, running back Maurice Jones-Drew was a limited participant in workouts on Thursday. That could bode well for his ability to go on Sunday, although MJD hasn't exactly been lighting up the league this year while on the field.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Rod Streater hasn't practiced this week due to a lingering injury. He may not play on Sunday, although Streater is on the record saying he will play through his hip flexor issues.
- Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (knee)
- Cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee)
- Defensive end Justin Tuck (illness)
- Linebacker Sio Moore (ankle)
- Linebacker Nick Roach (concussion)
- Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hand)
- Wide receiver Rod Streater (hip)
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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