By Steve Corkran
Friday, September 9th, 2011 at 10:16 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Finally, some real news to sink our teeth into as the Raiders regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos draws near.
Coach Hue Jackson said Friday night that it’s unlikely that tight end Kevin Boss and backup safety Mike Mitchell will play, given they haven’t practiced at all this week.
He said he won’t reveal his starting wide receivers and punt returner until after practice Saturday afternoon. However, he said it’s pretty apparent who is going to return punts.
Based on that, it’s safe to assume that Nick Miller will return punts Monday, especially considering he has been the primary guy fielding punts in practice all week.
Rookie Denarius Moore joined Miller on punt returns Friday night. However, he said afterward that he is approaching things as if he is the backup to Miller.
“I have no idea what they’re going to have me doing,” Moore said. “Right now, I’m just backing up Nick Miller.”
*The other player who missed practice is third-year wide receiver Louis Murphy. That’s not such a big deal because he already has been ruled out of Monday’s game.
What qualifies as news came in an interview with Murphy in the locker room, the first since he underwent surgery for a groin injury midway through training camp.
Murphy said he is doing some light jogging and running around, but he isn’t as close to returning as he would like to be.
For now, he is resigned to missing more than just the Broncos game.
“I’m targeting the season home opener,” Murphy said. “That’s what we’re shooting for. If I could go to Buffalo, then that would be good. But, if not, we’ll try to shoot for that home opener.”
The Raiders play the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 18 before opening at home against the New York Jets on Sept. 25.
Murphy said he was diagnosed with a sports hernia and that the recovery time is four to six weeks for an athlete, six to eight weeks for a non-athlete.
If there’s a silver lining for Murphy, the Raiders leading wide receiver each of the past two seasons, it’s that his injury happened during training camp and he should be back for most of the regular season.
“I still have high hopes,” Murphy said. “If I miss a couple games, I still feel like I’ll have a pretty good season. Hopefully, I’ll play 14 games this year and help the team get to the playoffs.”
*Middle linebacker Rolando McClain is just like Jackson in that he isn’t too worried about the way the Raiders defense played during the four exhibition games.
The fact the Raiders return 10 of the 11 starters from last year’s defense makes it that much easier for the defense to come together in short order. At least that’s the assumption.
“We’ve practiced together, so, obviously, we know what we’ve got,” McClain said. “Pretty much the same guys as last year, with a few exceptions here and there. But we know what we’ve got, we know what we’ve got to do. It’s not about what we’ve got, it’s about going out and proving ourself. That’s the task at hand.”
McClain and cornerback Chris Johnson missed a handful of practices during camp. Johnson echoed McClain’s sentiments about the defense being up to speed.
“Defense is defense,” Johnson said. “Everybody knows the defense. I don’t think we’ll have a problem meshing together. We started training camp together, nicks and bruises are going to come, but come Monday night we’ll be ready to go. We’ll jell well.”
*For what it’s worth, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey were the wide receivers with the first-team offense during the media access window Friday night.
*Quote of the night: “Not yet. Not yet. Can’t get out yet. How we doing tonight? We can’t open that can up just yet.” — Jackson, when asked if the lightning was his idea of opening up a can of …
*Rookie running back Taiwan Jones was limited at practice the past two nights, at least.
We learned about his foot injury only as a result of the official injury report coming out Friday morning, as mandated by the league.
Otherwise, it likely would have been kept under wraps the way it has for however long. Jones was not available for comment after practice.
*Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan spoke with the media for the second time since he was hired to replace John Marshall. The first time came during training camp.
Bresnahan since has had the privilege of seeing his players together for more than a month and through four exhibition games.
“Progress, but slow,” Bresnahan said. “We’re taking the strides. The things you saw in the preseason were very vanilla and not a lot of playing time for the 1s, obviously. We’ve gotten the practice time and we’re excited to get out there and show what we’ve got in Denver.”
One of the changes you can expect to see is Michael Huff moving from free safety to nickel back in obvious passing situations. As for who will replace Huff at free safety in such situations, Bresnahan said he has some things in mind.
Logical option include Matt Giordano, Jerome Boyd and, perhaps, Chimdi Chekwa.
Bresnahan said McClain has impressed him with the way he has taken charge of the defense in only his second season. He expects McClain to play a heightened role this season.
“Rolando is going to be the heartbeat of our defense,” Bresnahan said. “We have a lot of veterans, but he is the guy that is going to be our signal-caller. He’s in the middle taking control and he’s excited to get going, and I am excited to see him play Monday night.”
The Raiders have worked out outside linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Tully Banta-Cain since training camp opened. Still, Bresnahan is encouraged by what he has seen out of weak-side linebacker Quentin Groves.
“He’s in a situation where he needs to gain experience at the linebacker position, so we played him in both base and the nickel,” Bresnahan said. “And it was really, really beneficial for him, because he got a lot of experience, lots of playing times, saw a lot of things he may not have seen yet in the limited experience he had last year.”
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl