By Sam McPherson
As the Oakland Raiders (3-4) prepare to host the Philadelphia Eagles at the O.co Coliseum on Sunday, injuries are a concern in a few areas. But, overall, Oakland is fielding a somewhat healthy team right now as they shoot for their fourth win of the season on Sunday against Philadelphia (3-5).
The Eagles are 31st in total defense, so the Raiders will need to take advantage with all their offensive firepower in this matchup.
Oakland’s primary concern going into the Philly game is the offensive line, where the Raiders have a few question marks — although most of them are for backup players. But starting left tackle Tony Pashos, who did not participate in practices this week, is a big question for Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. game. If he can’t go, 24-year-old backup Matt McCants will get his third start of the season, as he got the nod last week in the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as in the Week 5 win over the visiting San Diego Chargers.
Since the Raiders have fared just fine with McCants in the starting lineup in those two home games, that bodes well for this upcoming matchup.
However, with McCants in the starting lineup, this does affect the OL depth overall. Backup left tackle Menelik Watson has been limited in practice this week, and that could cause a problem for Oakland if either McCants or starting left tackle Khalif Barnes run into any physical challenges on Sunday.
And one last potential concern on the offensive line is backup center Andre Gurode. He did not participate in drills this week, either, and with his flexibility to play both center and guard, the Raiders line will need to stand firm this week against an Eagles defense that is struggling this season to do much of anything against opposing offenses.
Philadelphia is giving up 401.8 yards per game, although most of that is against the pass. The Eagles are actually pretty good against the run in 2013, surrendering just 99.5 yards per game (eighth in the league). Oakland is seventh in the league in rushing offense, posting 138.9 yards per game — and they’ll obviously need the offensive line in good shape to find success there on Sunday.
The two other injury concerns for the Raiders are at safety and wide receiver this week, but they are relatively minor. Safety Tyvon Branch was upgraded to questionable earlier in the week, but he’s still not even listed on the team’s official depth charts. In addition, third-string wide receiver Andre Holmes is listed as questionable as well, but he has yet to catch a pass this season and has played in only two of the team’s seven contests so far. Thus, it’s hard to imagine his potential absence having much impact on the game.
Assuming the Oakland offensive line can hold it together on Sunday, look for Terrelle Pryor and the offense to have a big day against the Eagles, especially through the air. The Raiders may struggle here and there on the ground, but they’ll just need to stay committed to the run regardless in order to open up some big chances with the passing game as the contest progresses into the second half.
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Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.