The Raiders will be without Nos. 1 and 2 running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson and defensive tackle Richard Seymour for the third straight game.
All three missed practice Friday before being declared out for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals game by coach Dennis Allen.
“They made progress this week,” Allen said, “but they’re not ready to go yet.”
That means regular fullback Marcel Reece will start at running back for the third straight game, with second-year player Taiwan Jones and rookie Jeremy Stewart the backups once again.
Reece is fresh from a game in which he amassed 193 yards rushing and receiving. He said he’s just trying to hold down the fort until the other backs return.
“We have so many playmakers on this team that no one’s that guy,” Reece said. “Darren McFadden’s the bell cow for this team and will be the bell cow for this team. Right now we’re kind of playing running back by committee. When it really comes down to it, you’re just trying to make plays the way you’re supposed to make plays.”
On a positive note, Goodson said he finally is out of the protective boot that he spent more than two weeks in while recovering from a high-ankle sprain. He and McFadden got hurt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 4.
Goodson said he is disappointed that he missed out on the opportunity to be the lead back.
“You see McFadden go down, and I was the next guy in line,” Goodson said. “You kind of want to get out there and show everybody what you can do, and then I go down with an ankle. The exact same injury (as McFadden), the exact same game.”
Goodson said he is making progress, though he doesn’t have a timeframe for his return.
Desmond Bryant will start in place of Seymour.
– Niners linebacker Aldon Smith recorded 5 ½ sacks Monday night against the Chicago Bears. That total is half what the Raiders have through 10 games and almost twice that of Seymour’s team-high three.
Allen said part of the paltry sack total owes to the Raiders lacking a speed-rusher like Smith. The other factor is the inconsistency of the linebackers and defensive backs in pass coverage.
“We’ve got to do a better job of winning our one-on-ones, whether that be in coverage or whether that be in the rush,” Allen said. “Those things work together. It really comes down to individual battles, and we’ve got to win more individual battles.”
Defensive lineman Dave Tollefson said the sacks will come as long as he and his defensive mates keep working hard and play within the context of the scheme.
“I played on (New York Giants) teams that got a load of sacks, and it was a group effort,” Tollefson said. “You got to keep pounding that rock. You got to just keep working, keep working and that wall will break down.”
– Like most teams, the Raiders goal is to feature a balanced offensive attack. Injuries and situations in games oftentimes dictate otherwise.
Given that, the Raiders are the most lopsided offense through 10 games, with 66.1 percent of their plays being passes.
By comparison, the Texans and 49ers are the most-balanced teams in the league, right about 50 percent pass and 50 percent pass.
Allen said it’s “extremely important” for the Raiders to have a balanced offensive attack.
“When you throw the football that many times, eventually bad things happen,” Allen said. “We have to have balance, we have to be able to run the football, we have to make teams play us honestly.”
However, being balanced doesn’t always equate to success. The Redskins (4-6) and Chiefs (1-9) are the third- and fourth-most-balanced teams, yet they are long-shots to make the playoffs..
– Bengals fans hoping to get a look at Carson Palmer, the quarterback that guided their team from 2004-10, won’t be able to do so if they live in the Cincinnati area. The game is blacked out locally.
Palmer was the Bengals first-round pick in 2003 (No. 1 overall). He spent his rookie season learning under Jon Kitna and didn’t play. He assumed the starting spot in 2004 and held on to that job for seven seasons.
The Raiders traded a 2012 first-round pick and a ’13 second-rounder to get Palmer from the Bengals last season. Sunday marks Palmer’s first game against his former team, in the stadium that he called home for so long.
– Strong safety Tyvon Branch (neck) said he’s “ready to roll” after missing last Sunday’s game. That snapped a streak of 57 straight starts for Branch.
Jones (ankle) and rookie defensive end Jack Crawford (toe) are questionable.
– Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has at least one touchdown in the past nine games. Overall, he has 64 receptions for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games.
It’s not difficult to make a strong case for Green being the most-dangerous receiver the Raiders have faced all season.
“A.J. Green is having a great year,” strong safety Tyvon Branch said. “So we got to stop the ball from going on top. Keep everything in front of us and tackle.”
Cornerback Michael Huff will cover Green whenever he is lined up on the right side. Allen said the Raiders won’t use Huff or Ron Bartell to shadow Green.
Huff calls Green “an animal” and a better overall receiver than the Falcons Julio Jones, who Huff covered earlier this season.
“He makes more plays, probably plays the deep ball better,” Huff said. “You can throw it up to him, he just goes up and gets it, just makes plays. He’s better than Julio, to me. Not as fast as Julio as far as long speed, but he can still run.”
– Rookie offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom will see some more playing time Sunday, Allen said. Just don’t plan on Bergstrom catching a pass anytime soon, even though he oftentimes has been used as an extra offensive lineman.
When that happens, the referee is compelled to announce that “No. 70 has reported as an eligible receiver.”
“Don’t read too much into that,” said Bergstrom, who last caught a pass in high school. “I know I’m eligible, but that’s like saying a really ugly guy is an eligible bachelor. It doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
– Wide receiver Denarius Moore said he shares the blame for not being on the same page as Palmer in recent games, even though Palmer tries to take the lion’s share of the blame.
“We sat down and talked about what we need to do and what we need to get better on,” Moore said. “All the blame is not on him. Lately there’s been times where I was wide open dropped a couple of passes and times where I didn’t get off a release, or my timing was off a little bit.
“All the (blame) is not on him. It’s just watching film, seeing what the DB is going to do, what coverages we might get and what releases might work for us.”
Palmer completed only one of seven throws to Moore against the Saints. Against the Buccaneers a late pass from Palmer was intercepted, with Moore breaking toward the middle of the field, away from the ball.