By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 at 4:24 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Running back Darren McFadden still is in a walking boot 10 days after he suffered a high-ankle sprain. Defensive tackle Richard Seymour still isn’t healthy enough to practice because of lingering knee and hamstring injuries.
Therefore, coach Dennis Allen says, they are questionable for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. If they aren’t able to practice Thursday and/or Friday, there’s little chance of them playing after missing the past four practices and last Sunday’s game.
“All those guys are getting better,” Allen said, “it’s just a matter of whether they’re going to be better in time for Sunday or not.”
– The Raiders faced the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week last Sunday in the Ravens Jacoby Jones. Next up is a game against the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
Graham is a matchup nightmate, given he is 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds. Too fast for most linebackers to cover, too physical for most defensive backs to handle.
Ah, but he hasn’t seen Raiders safety Mike Mitchell yet. Mitchell said he has the combination of speed and size to match up well with Graham.
“I haven’t seen anyone get very physical with him yet, as far as DBs,” Mitchell said. “Most guys are too small, and they try to stay away from him. So, he just bodies them. I’m curious to see how he’s going to handle more of a physical, skill-position guy checking him at the line.
“Usually, he’s too fast for linebackers and too big for DBs, but I’ve been able to have success on those guys because I’m a skilled position guy. I like to get my hands on you a little bit and slow you down. So, we’ll see. It’s going to be a tough matchup.”
Graham caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and that was just in the regular season. Through nine games this season, he has caught 45 passes for 533 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He’s very good,” Mitchell said. “He’s one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets. If he can be eliminated, that takes a lot out of their offense.”
That’s one big “if” and one big assignment.
– Pro Football Focus takes the time to break down games in great detail each week. One thing that jumped out from the Raiders-Ravens game is the stark contrast of the Ravens passing.
According to PFF, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed 17 of 20 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns over the middle of the field Sunday. He completed only 4 of 11 for 47 yards on throws to the outside of the field, with one touchdown and one interception.
Cornerback Ron Bartell said there’s a simple explanation.
“Just miscommunication,” Bartell said. “Guys trying to do too much. Instead of doing their job, guys are trying to make up for other things in other areas. Each individual just needs to focus on what their responsibility is. If we do that we’ll be fine. We’ve played good defense this year. We play our best defense when everybody’s being fundamentally sound and not worried about somebody else’s job.”
Fellow starting cornerback Michael Huff agreed with that assessment.
“We knew they had a lot of great tight ends and a lot of good slot receivers,” Huff said. “A lot of it came out of communication, too, the back end and the linebackers, we just didn’t catch some things. It had a little combination to do with all of it.”
– Interesting stat: Saints coach Joe Vitt pointed out to his players that of the past six teams to allow 50 points or more and play at home the next week, five of them rebounded with a victory.
“Joe’s got a stat for everything,” Allen said. “Hopefully, he’s right.”
So, that gives the Raiders an 83.33 percent chance of beating the Saints on Sunday, based on recent history.
Brees isn’t taking the Raiders lightly.
“I know the team that we’re going to face is not the team that gave up 55 points last week or 42 points against Tampa,” Brees said. “Really, I feel like their defense played very well against the Bucs, with the exception of three big runs. If you take away just three big plays that resulted in 21 points, I felt like their defense played very, very well.
“So, that’s this game, though. It’s a play here, it’s a play there, it’s a big play here, a big play there that can typically affect the outcome of a game. This defense has a lot of very talented players on it. They have played very, very well at times. I know that, for us, we’re going to have to play our best game and worry about our execution, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
– Tight end Brandon Myers passed all the league-mandated tests for players that suffer a concussion, which means he is cleared to practice at full-speed and play in a game.
Free safety Matt Giordano also suffered a concussion against the Ravens last Sunday, but he still hasn’t passed the tests. Hence, Myers was at practice today, Giordano sat out.
Allen said there’s a plan in place if Giordano isn’t able to play Sunday. That might mean moving Huff back to free safety or, perhaps, giving Mike Mitchell a rare start.
– Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey tweaked his right hamstring in practice today. He was limited as a result.
– Phillip Adams has muffed two punts this season. To that end, Allen said he had a little chat with Adams after his latest gaffe, against the Ravens.
“We’ve addressed the situation with Phillip, and he understands that he’s got to protect the football,” Allen said. “We’ll continue to monitor that as we go along, but he’s got to protect the football better.”
If Allen opts to make a change, wide receiver Denarius Moore is next in line.
– Allen addressed the rationale behind placing cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) on season-ending injured-reserve Saturday.
“(His recovery) just wasn’t as fast as neither he nor us as an organization wanted, and we were in a situation from an injury standpoint where we had to get roster spots to get guys on to the active roster,” Allen said. “So, it was not an easy decision, but sometimes you’ve got to make those decisions as you get into the season and you need roster spots.”
The Raiders needed two roster spots to accommodate the return of Bartell from injured reserve and the signing of running back Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad.
– Taiwan Jones touched the ball only two times against the Ravens, even though Stewart received seven carries in the same game 24 hours after emerging from the practice squad.
Allen said Jones still has some things to work through before he can be relied upon with a sizable workload.
“He’s got to prove to us that he can stay healthy, that he’s got to know what to do on every single play and he’s got to protect the football,” Allen said. “We’re giving him those opportunities in practice, and as he shows us he’s going to be able to do that, he’ll see more time.”
Allen said Jones is making progress in that regard.
“Actually, there was improvement last week,” Allen said, “so hopefully there’s continued improvement this week.”
Allen said Jones has not voiced any displeasure to him over his lack of playing time at running back.