ALAMEDA (CBS 5 / AP) — The Oakland Raiders had plenty of problems on the offensive line in the season opener even with Robert Gallery in the lineup.
Now as they prepare for their second game, the Raiders face the real possibility of being without their most reliable lineman. Gallery missed practice for the second straight day Thursday with a hamstring injury and his status for Sunday’s game against St. Louis is in doubt.
Coach Tom Cable said he would know more Friday whether Gallery could go this week. If Gallery is unable to play, Daniel Loper would get the start. Loper has started just five games in his five-year career, all with Detroit last season.
The Raiders struggled without Gallery last season when he missed 10 games with a broken leg and a bad back. They went just 2-8 in games he missed, scoring 9.8 points per contest. Oakland was 3-3 when Gallery started, scoring 16.5 points per game.
They were counting on him to anchor a line this year that features rookie center Jared Veldheer, who was playing tackle at Division II Hillsdale College a year ago, and a pair of tackles in Mario Henderson and Langston Walker, who struggled mightily in the opener.
“We got to keep him on the field and keep him healthy, because when he is, he’s been very good, very productive and you miss him when he’s not there,” Cable said. “And so, what does he mean to it? That is a unit that needs to play together as much and as often as they possibly can to be good. And so, when you take a piece out, an important piece, I think it does hurt you.”
Even with Gallery in the lineup, the Raiders had trouble moving the ball in the 38-13 loss at Tennessee in the opener. The Raiders gained just 106 yards in the first half as Jason Campbell had little time to throw the ball most of the game.
The line committed four false starts, one holding call, and allowed four sacks, leading Cable to say the team needs much better play from its tackles this week.
Cable, the former line coach, is still involved heavily with the group and said he takes their struggles harder than he would another position’s because of the time he has put in with those players. He said there are times he’d like to spend “every second” coaching that group but he has bigger issues to deal with as head coach.
Cable isn’t ready to write off his line, pointing out the two of the sacks came on the second drive and the team gained 135 yards on the ground.
“Let’s not dump on that group,” Cable said. “That would be stupidity by all of us. We ran the ball with some consistency. We’ve got to clean up the sacks early in the first two drives. We do that, you look at it and say, ‘Wow, that really isn’t a bad for them.’ But because of that issue on the first two drives, it’s not acceptable. But I’d like to see us continue to run the ball on that pace and improve from there, because I think we’ll be pretty good at that.”
One of the biggest issues was Tennessee’s ability to get off the line quicker than the Raiders. That was most evident on a play in the first quarter when defensive end Jacob Ford got in the backfield before Henderson had even gotten off the line, leading to a strip sack that led to a field goal for the Titans.
Henderson believes Ford was offside on the play, but no penalty was called.
“If you just turned on ESPN, you seen me get beat by a sack-fumble,” he said. “Nobody knows he was offsides because they didn’t throw the flags. They jumped us a few times in the game. But once again, playing left tackle, a guy jumps offsides, I have no chance. None. And it always looks the worst coming from the backside, the blind side. I really learned that.”
The opening test was difficult, coming on the road against a good defense with a unit that had little time together leading up to the game. Veldheer played only one exhibition game as the first-team center after taking the place of Samson Satele, sitting out the final preseason with the rest of the starters. Cable said he hadn’t decided whether Veldheer would start Sunday.
While Henderson, Gallery and Carlisle were starters last season, Walker was mostly a reserve after rejoining the Raiders and played guard as well as right tackle. Campbell said it will take time for this group to gel.
“It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, or happen in one or two games, it’s something that as the season continues to progress, we’ll get on the same page and continue to have that trust in one another,” he said. “Right now everyone’s learning, and playing at the same time, and everyone’s trying to get a feel for each other. But there’s a lot of progress that we took out of the game.”
NOTES: Dodgers manager Joe Torre and former Raiders coach John Madden attended practice. … RB Michael Bush (broken left thumb) was limited at practice. … DL Richard Seymour (hamstring) was among those who missed practice.
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