ALAMEDA – The bye week didn’t help the Raiders offensive line much, if at all. The ailing front was in similar straits during Monday’s practice, with the same line that finished an Oct. 13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
That ragtag group features a third-string center with a game’s experience at the position, an undrafted rookie right guard, and first-year right tackle.
It didn’t function well against the Chiefs, allowing 10 sacks and 14 quarterback hits and 23 hurries. In a word, yikes.
While it spells trouble heading into Sunday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s not cause to hit the panic button just yet. If the lineup remains later in the week, press away.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have some guys back,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ll know more on Wednesday.”
Monday’s workout wasn’t part of the standard game week, so Allen wasn’t required to provide an injury update. He wouldn’t talk about injuries at all during his press conference, but the open portion of practice shed light on the offensive line’s dire injury situation.
Stefen Wisniewski missed his ninth straight practice with a knee sprain, although he was more active and agile on a side field than normal during an injury stretch that started during a Sept. 29 loss to Washington. Backup center Andre Gurode (knee) and right tackle Tony Pashos (hip flexor) remained out with injuries that started the disaster in Kansas City.
Jared Veldheer (triceps) remains at least three weeks away and rookie tackle Menelik Watson (calf) was absent yet again.
Only left guard Lucas Nix remains from the projected starting lineup. Everything else has been in flux. The line held up surprisingly well, but finally broke against the Chiefs.
“It was a bigger blow because it came after so many guys went down,” left tackle Khalif Barnes said. “We were already shorthanded, so losing more guys was tough. The total number was tough to deal with, but there are no excuses around here. We have to play better with the healthy guys we have. “
The Raiders know that, especially after stalling out following the line’s latest injury plague. The position group has been beset by injury to the point that guys are playing out of position, even after starting low on the depth chart.
“The entire line has been through so much,” right guard Lamar Mady said. “It’s been tough with so many injuries, but we all fight. So many guys have shown grit and focus, and I have much respect for all of them. They never use excuses. They just go out there and compete.”
While line play, even as it’s currently constructed, would benefit from a week’s practice, these trials could pay off in the long run. Game experience should help, especially after established or highly regarded players return.
“There’s no replacement for experience,” Allen said. “Unfortunately at times guys have got to get their experience in a tough situation — in a game environment, but that’s the way you get better as a football team. You look at the best football teams in the National Football League, and they’ve got depth. They’ve got guys that can go in when called upon, and they can go in and play well. The fact that we’ve had a lot of guys get some experience and get some play time will help us down the road.”