The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Oakland Raiders, with a season-worst 13 players etched on to the injury report two weeks ago. And the extra time off has allowed the 2-3 AFC West squad to heal up with only five players currently hurt ahead of Sunday’s critical matchup with the rival San Diego Chargers.
Oakland still has some concerns along the defensive line, but it is in much better shape than 2-4 San Diego.
Defensive lineman Denico Autry (concussion) makes the list for the second straight game after missing Week 5’s 16-10 letdown to Denver, as do defensive tackle Justin Ellis (ankle), running backs Taiwan Jones (foot) and Latavius Murray (shoulder), and safety Charles Woodson (shoulder/knee).
Murray and Woodson did play against the Broncos, with the former totaling up 39 rushing yards and the latter 39-year-old picking off quarterback Peyton Manning twice to become the oldest player ever to record multiple interceptions in a single game.
However, the Raiders did add a knee injury to Woodson’s previous shoulder ailment. He did not participate in practice on Wednesday, but went full speed the next day. The shoulder’s bothered Woodson since Week 2, when he was listed as questionable, but he’s yet to miss a game this season and is currently third on the team with 26 total tackles and tied for first in the NFL with four picks on the year.
Murray made his first appearance on the report before the Denver matchup, and his play has slipped over the last two games. The 25-year-old starter has 88 yards on 28 attempts and he hasn’t averaged better than 3.3 yards per carry in that span.
But it is possible Murray’s turned a corner. In Week 5, he was limited the first two days of practice, but this week he’s fully participated and stands to take advantage of a Chargers rushing defense allowing 132.5 yards per game, No. 30 in the league.
Murray’s recent lack of production has the Raiders in familiar territory. Last season, Oakland owned the worst rushing attack in the NFL with 77.5 yards per game, and through five contests this year it has 450 total rushing yards, the second-worst in the league.
But playing injured against Denver’s No. 7 rushing defense, Murray’s poor play wasn’t a surprise for Oakland.
Instead, Oakland and head coach Jack Del Rio are likely more worried about reshuffling the injured defensive frontline, which could’ve been an advantage over San Diego’s No. 26 rushing attack and an offensive line that’s allowed 17 sacks.
According to CSN Bay Area, Autry was cleared to return to practice on Wednesday after sustaining his concussion in Week 4 against Chicago, but went back to the bench on Thursday and could sit out again.
Autry and Ellis’ presence on the injury report, in addition to veteran Justin Tuck’s unfortunate move to season-ending injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, leaves the Raiders thin up front.
The Raiders brought safety Taylor Mays back into the fold when Tuck was sent to IR, which likely means Del Rio has faith in rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. The former Florida State standout and second-round pick has eight tackles and 0.5 sacks in five games and one start this season.
Still the Raiders have a fairly clean bill of health compared to San Diego, which lists 15 players on their official injury report this week, including leading receiver Keenan Allen, tight end Antonio Gates, and free safety Eric Weddle.
Allen (hip) and Gates (knee) were held out of the first two days of practice, and their status for the game is unclear, while the San Diego Union-Tribune reports safeties Jahleel Addae and Jimmy Wilson are expected to start ahead of leading tackler and secondary captain Weddle (groin).
The potential loss of his two top targets comes at a poorly timed moment for quarterback Philip Rivers after his offensive line fully practiced together for the first time this season on Thursday. Left guard Orlando Franklin (ankle), left tackle King Dunlap (concussion), and center Chris Watt all missed the last three games but have participated in both practices this week.