ALAMEDA – Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker hasn’t even started the NFL’s concussion-related protocol. While he hasn’t been ruled out, his odds of playing Sunday are virtually nil.
That will further tax a defense already worn thin with injury. The Raiders have lost major contributors safety Usama Young, corner D.J. Hayden and linebacker Kaluka Maiava in recent weeks, which adds snaps to the starting unit.
With Walker out, now the line’s thrown off kilter. While the team won’t use it as an excuse, attrition is major reason why the defense looks worn down late in games.
“We’ve all been taking a lot of snaps,” said defensive end Lamarr Houston, who has taken 853 this season. “It’s that point in the season where we have to pull back and do mental things over physical ones.”
Playing without Walker is tough. The defensive tackle is an unsung hero who does virtually everything well. He’s an excellent run stuffer who plays tackle and end in the base defense. He’s a solid interior pass rusher who can shed double teams well.
Walker’s an example of a weakening unit that must fight through the end of the season.
“We expect different guys to step up and help,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “We preach every week that an opportunity will come where a guy will have to step up.”
Branch still limited: Raiders safety Tyvon Branch remains limited recovering from a fractured fibula. He was expected to play Sunday against the Jets, but was ruled out the Friday before.
“Coach said he didn’t want me up,” Branch said. “I’m still on my road to recovery. If it was up to me, I would’ve been playing weeks ago.”
Moore continues to practice well: Receiver Denarius Moore is in line to play his first game in a month. He’s shown well in consecutive practices and will add depth to the receiver corps. The Raiders expect to have Moore and Andre Holmes on the outside with Rod Streater frequently in the slot.
Raiders participation report
Did not practice: RB Darren McFadden (ankle), RB Jeremy Stewart (ankle, knee), DT Vance Walker (concussion).
Limited participation: SS Tyvon Branch (ankle), TE Nick Kasa (concussion), WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), OLB Sio Moore (neck)
Injured reserve: LB Kaluka Maiava, S Usama Young, CB D.J. Hayden (groin), WR Juron Criner (shoulder), TE David Ausberry (shoulder), RB Latavius Murray (ankle), K Eddie Carmona (leg), G Tony Bergstrom (foot)