The Oakland Raiders have been hampered by injuries all season. As they complete their final days of practice for the upcoming New Orleans Saints game, they have been hit especially hard. Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson as well as defensive tackle Richard Seymour have been ruled out for a second straight week. Safety Tyvon Branch and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey will be game time decisions.
McFadden and Goodson continue to nurse their high ankle sprains. McFadden was able to run on the sidelines with trainers yesterday which is encouraging, but Goodson is yet to begin any running activities. Fullback Marcel Reece will be the lead back because of the injuries, similar to last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Seymour still has hamstring issues that have lingered for much of the season.
Strong safety Tyvon Branch, who is second on the team with 52 tackles, was able to get on the practice field but in a limited fashion. The Raiders use Branch to defend opposing tight ends and the Saints boost Jimmy Graham, who is one of the best in the game. If Branch cannot go because of his neck injury, the Saints may be able to take advantage. Mike Mitchell would fill in for Branch and be tasked with slowing down Graham.
“It’s a better step forward,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of Branch. “It’s better than he didn’t practice, but he was limited today in practice. It’ll be a game-time decision.”
Along with Branch, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey will be a game time decision with a hamstring injury. The former first round pick has played well this season and could have major opportunities this week against a New Orleans pass defense that ranks 31st in the NFL. If Heyward-Bey is unable to go, the Raiders will substitute Derek Hagan into the starting line-up. Hagan would be backed up by rookie Juron Criner and Denarius Moore and Rod Streater would be the other two receivers available.
“Hagan and Criner have been playing in that position, so and then obviously,
Denarius Mooreand Rod Streaterare still playing, so we’d have four receivers up in the game,” Allen said. “Hagan would probably take the first rep, but they’ll all play.”
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