By Ryan Leong
It looks like the Raiders will have to rely on their passing game even more than usual with the injuries to running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson. Both backs were not able to practice on Wednesday, three days after both suffered high ankle sprains against Tampa Bay. While both players’ MRI results came back negative, Goodson was in a walking boot. It can take weeks to recover from high ankle sprains.
“I’m not going to make any decision on whether they’re playing until Friday after practice,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ll see how the rest of the week plays out. Obviously we’ve got a plan in place if either or both of those guys are not able to play.” McFadden sprained his ankle early in the second quarter and Goodson was injured early in the fourth quarter. With Oakland falling behind by 18 points, the Raiders were forced to abandon the run in favor of passing the ball almost the entire second half. Given that the Raiders rank 31st out of 32 teams in rushing, that plan involves Carson Palmer throwing the ball and throwing it on possibly every down like he did against the Buccaneers.
Last Sunday, Palmer passed a career-high 61 times. He was near perfect too, completing 39 of them for 424 yards and four touchdowns. While he did throw three interceptions including two inside the final two minutes, the Raiders had scored touchdowns on four straight drives to get back into the game. Throwing the football is not a concern for him and Palmer does it more often than you think.
“You throw 150 before the game and then another 50 during the game just getting warmed up between series and on Wednesday and Thursday practice you throw a couple hundred balls so that’s not an issue,” Palmer said.
It appears the Raiders will use third-string back Taiwan Jones, who only has one carry for two yards this season. He also fumbled the ball on that play. In 2011 as a rookie, he had 16 carries for 73 yards. Jones was drafted in the fourth round out of Eastern Washington. Although he has had various injuries including knee and hamstring injuries, he is healthy and able to fill in on Sunday.
The other option is to use fullback Marcel Reece who took reps during training camp at running back when McFadden, Goodson and Jones were all injured. Reece never ran the ball in an exhibition game. In last Sunday’s game vs. Tampa Bay, Reece led all Raider receivers with eight catches for 95 yards including a 13-yard touchdown. But Reece did not carry the ball for any rushing yardage.
The good news is that Palmer has a lot of experience in playing against the Baltimore Ravens from his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. Palmer’s career record vs. the Ravens is 9-4. Also in Palmer’s favor is that the Raiders have scored in the final two minutes of the first half in eight straight games.
“When we’re in two minute mode, we’ve done a good job,” Palmer said. “We’ve always felt because we played poorly in the first half, you’ve got to score on this drive. It’s go big or go home, you’ve got to score. And we’ve done a good job scoring but we’ve got to continue to get better before that two minute mark.”
Other notes from Wednesday’s practice: Defensive tackle Desmond Bryant who spent Sunday night in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat, was a full participant in practice. Starting right tackle Khalif Barnes made his return to practice after being sidelined since week two with a groin injury.
Both DT Richard Seymour (knee and hamstring) injuries and cornerback Shawntae Spencer who injured his foot back in week two did not practice.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.