By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Raiders get injured running back Darren McFadden back this week against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, but it will still be Rashad Jennings who gets the start for the Silver and Black in the game on Thursday.
McFadden, who has never played in more than 13 games in one NFL season, has been out since leaving the Raiders November 3 game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a hamstring injury. He’s listed as questionable for the Dallas game, but he should play — backing up Jennings, the five-year veteran who has actually outperformed McFadden this year on the field.
Jennings (553 yards this season) and McFadden (352 yards) will both look to exploit the many holes in the Cowboys run defense, ranked 30th in the NFL, especially as McFadden was a full participant in practice this week.
While Dallas’ pass defense is pretty bad, too (31st in the league), the Raiders offense will be without top-target Denarius Moore again at wide receiver. His injured shoulder will keep him out of a second straight game, so once again, quarterback Matt McGloin will have to throw passes to backup Andre Holmes.
Otherwise, the Raiders offense is pretty healthy heading into this short-week matchup on Thanksgiving Day. Former starter Terrelle Pryor will be backing up McGloin again at the QB position, but may still seem some game action on special plays designed to take advantage of his athleticism against a very bad Cowboys defense, currently the worst in the NFL statistically.
Defensively, the Silver and Black have some issues. Cornerback Mike Jenkins passed concussion protocol tests, and after limited participation in practice this week, he will start against Tony Romo and the Dallas offense. Concussions, of course, are always a tenuous condition for any athlete, especially in the NFL. But this could be an issue for Oakland as the Cowboys have a very good passing game and two pretty good wideouts (see below).
The Raiders have two starting linebackers who are dinged up a bit, too. Kevin Burnett (quadriceps) and Sio Moore (shoulder) both were listed as questionable this week and limited in practice, but they are both expected to start against a Cowboys offense that has the ability to light up the scoreboard.
Oakland defensive end Jason Hunter has been ruled out for the game, however, due to his foot injury. He did not participate on practice this week, so Jack Crawford will take his place on the defensive front.
For the host Cowboys, the injury situation is both simpler and more interesting at the same time. Both Dallas’ starting wide receivers, Dez Bryant (back) and Miles Austin (hamstring), are probable, but with those injuries, they could be in a fragile state on game day with a tough hit or two over the middle on a pass route.
Defensively, all four Dallas starting linemen are on the injury report, but they are expected to start and play nonetheless — all are listed as probable. Ends George Selvie (shoulder) and DeMarcus Ware (thigh), as well as tackles Jason Hatcher (neck) and Nick Hayden (ribs), could all be in for a tough day against the Raiders offensive line if Oakland has its way with the Cowboys defense early and often in this game.
Lastly, Dallas safety J.J. Wilcox is expected to play despite his knee woes, and the Raiders catch a break with Cowboys kick-return specialist Dwayne Harris out with a hamstring injury; he didn’t practice this week and will not play.
Since both teams played on Sunday, November 24, the short turnaround this week could create some issues for either team without notice, so it will be interesting to see if fatigue and a “failure to recover” plays a big role in the outcome of this Thanksgiving Day matchup.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.