Rather than create change at two positions, Raiders coach Tom Cable said Wednesday Erik Pears will replace Robert Gallery at left guard when Oakland hosts the Denver Broncos.
Cable said Pears has every position along the offensive line in the NFL, but the only game action has been at right and left tackle, where he had 26 starts with Denver in 2006 and 2007. Pears had seven starts at guard for the Cologne Centurions of NFL Europe in 2005.
Starting Pears at guard will enable to keep Chris Morris at center.
“I think one move rather than two is the way I felt,” Cable said. “That was the deciding factor.”
It’s another indication that Samson Satele, acquired by trade (the Raiders gave up a sixth round pick and swapped fourth-round selections) from Miami in the offseason to replace Jake Grove, has fallen far below expectations.
Morris is considered more versatile and better at making line calls and sight adjustments, something which will be crucial against a Denver 3-4 defense which Cable said can send pressure from different angles.
Punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins fielded some punts and ran some plays at receiver, but sat out enough reps that he was listed as limited and classified as questionable. Cable said he believes Higgins will be able to play.
If not, Cable said Darren McFadden would return punts and call for fair catches.
That’s a dramatic shift from last week, when Hiram Eugene was the punt return specialist backed up by Javon Walker, with Cable saying he wanted them to return kicks and didn’t want to essentially forfeit that part of the game.
Eugene had a pair of fair catches and failed to field another punt which fortunately rolled into the end zone when it could have been downed inside the 5-yard line. When Eugene left because of injury, Javon Walker called for a fair catch, appeared to have his arm brushed by a Chiefs defender, and muffed the catch, with the Raiders recovering.
Cable said the Raiders had gotten a letter back from the league saying that Walker had indeed been hit and the non-call was a mistake on the part of the officials.
Those who did not practice included LG Robert Gallery (broken fibula), WR Chaz Schilens (broken metacarpal), WR Nick Miller (broken shin) and Eugene (calf strain). Eugene was walking in a protective boot, meaning Michael Huff could start at free safety.
Cable said he hoped Schilens would be practicing more at the end of the week but didn’t think he would be available to play Sunday.
More to come later . . .