By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 at 5:02 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Running back Darren McFadden touched the ball only five times against the Dallas Cowboys in his return from a hamstring injury, but he played just long enough to add an ankle injury to his growing list of reasons why he can’t play.
As a result, the Raiders turned to former running back Taiwan Jones and asked him to forget about cornerback for the time being and get back into the habit of avoiding tackles.
“My mindset is, when I’m given the opportunity to do something, I’m going to make the most of it,” Jones said. “So whatever thoughts the coaches have, they tell me what to do and I’m here to do it.”
Jones said he wasn’t given much information on what to expect. However, he said he’s pretty confident that he’s going to touch the ball on offense Sunday against the New York Jets.
That likelihood increases if current No. 1 back Rashad Jennings isn’t able to play on the heels of a concussion or if he plays and gets dinged in the game.
“With Rashad’s situation with the concussion, with Jeremy and Darren’s situation, not knowing what their status will be for game day, we have to be prepared with the guys that we have to have somebody step up,” Allen said.
Jeremy as in Jeremy Stewart. He, too, is in question for the Jets game as he rehabs knee and ankle injuries that he suffered against the Jets.
McFadden wasn’t available for comment during the media-access window. Therefore, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he might return before the season ends.
“It’s more than what we initially had thought, so he wasn’t able to go today,” Allen said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get him out there soon, but I don’t know.”
As with the quarterback position, the Raiders have had to adjust on the fly at running back and rely far more upon the backups than the player they envisioned being the workhorse before the season started.
The Raiders first projected Matt Flynn to be the starting quarterback. That failed to materialize, with Flynn not playing well during training camp and the exhibition games and losing the job to Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor suffered a right MCL sprain against the Eagles on Nov. 3, struggled in his attempt to play at less than 100 percent and got supplanted by Matt McGloin.
Jennings made the most of his opportunity when McFadden got hurt against the Eagles, and he earned the starting job against the Cowboys, even though McFadden was deemed healthy enough to carry a full workload.
Allen said Friday that McFadden still was healthy enough to be the main back if Jennings’ concussion symptoms lingered.
– Jennings has cleared some of the “hurdles” required of him before he is permitted to play, Allen said.
Jennings was limited in practice today, but he has “gotten better every day,” Allen said.
– Safety Usama Young (neck), right guard Mike Brisiel (knee) and linebacker Kaluka Maiava (calf) did not practice, either.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins (stinger) was full go at practice today. Strong safety Tyvon Branch (ankle), offensive tackle Menelik Watson (illness), defensive end Jason Hunter (foot) and linebacker Miles Burris (toe) were limited today.
Allen seemed particularly pleased to see Branch on the practice field for the first time since Branch suffered an ankle injury.
“Anytime you lose a player of Tyvon’s ability and the way that he plays the game and that he stands for the things that we believe in here and the way that he takes care of his business, that’s a tough guy to replace,” Allen said. “Just getting him back on the field — he moved around pretty well today — is abig boost obviously to him but to all of us.”
Branch and Allen refused to say whether Branch’s injury actually involved a broken leg. Allen said Branch had more than one thing going on with his injury. The recovery process continues.
“I’m still on that road, but I came a long way,” Branch said. “I feel a lot better. I feel a lot more confident in my leg and it’s getting stronger.”
Allen said Branch will play Sunday if his ankle holds up through practice the rest of the week.
“I want to be out there,” Branch said, “so I’m going to push it to the limit and whatever happens, happens. … If my leg holds up, I can make an impact. That’s part of my game; coming in and making plays. So, if I have a chance to come out and make some plays, I want to.”
– Wide receiver Denarius Moore’s sore shoulder still hasn’t healed enough for him to practice.
“He’s still not ready yet,” Allen said. He said last month that it’s likely Moore will have to endure some pain if he is to play again this season.
– Lucas Nix worked at right guard in place of the injured Brisiel today. Allen said Nix is penciled in as the starter at that position for the Jets game if Brisiel isn’t healthy enough to play.
Nix has played mostly left guard all season. However, he got bumped from the starting lineup once left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer returned from a triceps injury and forced Khalif Barnes to left guard.
– Allen reiterated his desire to see Terrelle Pryor play again this season. He once again also steered clear of specifics on just how that’s going to take place.
Pryor also didn’t receive a glowing endorsement from Allen, who made it clear that McGloin is the clear-cut choice to guide the Raiders offense.
“We’d like to give him another opportunity to see what he can do,” Allen said. “The biggest thing is to utilize the guys and do the things that give us the best chance at success offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. If we feel like he gives us an advantage, we’ll use him.”
In other words, don’t hold your breath.
– The Raiders frittered away second-half leads in five of their eight losses this season. It’s not uncommon for the Raiders to get outplayed in the second half.
Why? No one seems to have an airtight explanation. Allen points to success on third-down plays as a primary reason for the disparity in play between the halves.
“Our issue, from a team standpoint, is that we haven’t done as good a job getting off the field on third down and we consequently haven’t had opportunities on offense,” Allen said. “On offense, we haven’t done a great job on third downs in that capacity.”
The Titans converted 10 of 18 third-down plays into first downs against the Raiders in a come-from-behind victory. Many of those came in the second half, especially the game-winning drive.