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ALAMEDA -- The Raiders have 13 players on season-ending injured reserve with two games to go.
That baker’s dozen is decidedly one-sided. A total of nine players on injured reserve play defense, and five of them were slated for the starting lineup.
Weak-side linebacker Sio Moore was the latest causality, having his season formally ended on Saturday with a hip injury.
[RELATED: Moore hits IR]
Every team has injuries, but the Raiders couldn’t afford many. They were far too thin, even at season’s start, to handle an injury plague.
The linebackers have been hit the worst with Moore, middle linebacker Nick Roach and versatile reserve Kaluka Maiava on IR. Safeties have also had a rough go with Tyvon Branch, Usama Young, Jonathan Dowling and Larry Asante down for the count.
The Raiders have played decently well, though certainly not well enough to win more games.
“I think it takes a toll, but it’s hard to use those things (as an excuse),” head coach Tony Sparano said. “Everybody’s hurt right now. It’s just the next-man-up mentality for us and we’ve been fortunate that some of these young guys that have gone in there and done a good job.”
Players like Miles Burris, C.J. Wilson, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Brandian Ross and even T.J. Carrie are unexpected parts of this week’s starting lineup -- an unheralded crew heavily active out of necessity.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has done a solid job of keeping this unit functional despite a lack of time and chemistry, which generally comes from experience.
“What’s been great is that the new guys keep jumping in and the unit rallies together,” Tarver said. “It’s about whatever 11 guys are on the field at the time, playing as one. We’ve improved steadily in that regard because we don’t think (about losing people). We think about it as a new opportunity to play well.”
At times, that means simplifying things somewhat to keep everyone on the same page and avoid overloading new impact players. Sometimes that’s a simple disguise to make one call look like another. Tarver is confident that starters and backups alike can easily grasp the game plan.
“We’ve been in the same teaching patterns all year,” Tarver said. “We continue to hit the same points and improve upon them. At lot of times, there aren’t that many new things. We’re on the same progression with every player, and we’ve improved throughout the year.”
Sparano looked at this injury problem through rose-colored lenses. The Raiders have had an opportunity to evaluate the entire depth chart, something team’s rarely get to do.
“The good news is that you’re not going to have to sit here at the end of the season and wonder whether or not so-and-so can play,” Sparano said. “What is Denico Autry like? We know that. We’re getting a chance to see it every single week right now. These kind of guys -- Ricky Lumpkin now getting a chance to play in there and do some things. You’re seeing a lot of these young kids play and that’s a good thing. There’s been quite a few injuries right now.”