ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Deep-threat receiver Denarius Moore returned to practice for the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday after missing the previous three games with an injured right foot, providing a needed boost to a struggling offense.
The Raiders are still waiting for two of their other most dangerous playmakers to return from injuries. Receiver Jacoby Ford (left foot), who has been out for more than a month, ran on the side but still is unable to practice, and running back Darren McFadden has been out since injuring his right foot Oct. 23 against Kansas City.
But the return of Moore to practice was an encouraging sign for an offense that has sputtered without three of its fastest players.
“Obviously, he’s one of our better players,” coach Hue Jackson said. “I think any time you get one of your playmakers back, it gives you a tremendous boost. Again, this is going to be a football team game. It won’t be just one guy. One guy can’t change where we need to be. It’s got to be our team.”
The Raiders (7-6) have been blown out the past two weeks, losing 34-14 at Miami and 46-16 at Green Bay to fall out of first place in the AFC West. Oakland trails Denver by one game in the division and the New York Jets by one game in the wild-card race, leaving little margin for error with three games left in the season.
The Raiders have fallen behind 34-0 the past two weeks before scoring as turnovers, penalties and the lack of big-play threats have derailed an offense that was quite potent when its best playmakers were healthy.
“We need to score points. We need to be better on third down. We need to not turn the ball over. We need to play much better than we did the last two weeks,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Our backs are against the wall. We have to win these next three weeks. Our team understands where we are and what’s at stake. We need to play much better than we have been.”
Palmer is coming off just the second four-interception game of his career last week against the Packers, where he tried to force passes into coverage in search of big plays. Palmer has yet to play with McFadden this season and has struggled since Ford and Moore got hurt.
Ford got hurt on a 41-yard catch in the first quarter of a 24-17 win at San Diego on Nov. 10. Palmer then combined on five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns with Moore in that game as the two developed a good rhythm.
Moore then got hurt the following week and Palmer has struggled since then. The Raiders have scored just one touchdown the past three weeks while the game was still in doubt.
“You can’t use that as an excuse or you can’t really think about, ‘What if we had this guy or what if we had that guy?'” Palmer said. “You play with who you have and you need to make the best of every situation and make the best of every play. Sometimes if the play isn’t there, the best thing is to get to second-and-10, and that’s something that I’m going to do a better job of.”
Jackson wasn’t sure yet whether Moore would play this week, saying it was important to see how his foot responds Thursday. But if he is able to return, that should help the running game as well as the passing game as defenses won’t be able to focus so heavily on stopping running back Michael Bush.
The Raiders have not had a run for 20 yards or more since Moore got hurt as opposing safeties have been able to play closer to the line of scrimmage without the worry of the deep ball.
Moore has 24 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns this season, with five of those catches going for at least 25 yards. That’s why Palmer was so happy to see him back out there practicing.
“He didn’t get a ton of work, but he looked good, and for a Wednesday it looked good,” he said. “He’s still got a handful of days to get ready and kind of get back in the swing of things, catching balls and be on the field with defense coming at him, so it was good for him.”
Notes: CB Chris Johnson left the team to attend the funeral of his sister in Texas. He is expected back Thursday night. … RB Taiwan Jones (hamstring), safety Michael Huff (hamstring) and DT John Henderson (knee) all missed practice with injuries.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.