With key offensive weapons missing on both sides of the ball—wide receiver Jacoby Ford for Oakland, running back Ryan Mathews for San Diego—defensive coordinators are licking their chops. The offensive coordinators are left scratching their heads, however, as they adjust their game plans around unknown entities on the bench. Here are the current liabilities in the lineups for the heated AFC West match up of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers for Week 1:
WR Jacoby Ford (foot)
G Cooper Carlisle (back); WR Juron Criner (ankle); WR Denarius Moore (hamstring); DT Richard Seymour (knee)
TE David Ausberry (shoulder); K Sebastian Janikowski (left groin); TE Brandon Myers (shoulder); G Stefen Wisniewski (calf)
T Jared Gaither (back); RB Ryan Mathews (shoulder)
DT Antonio Garay (ankle)
Wide receiver Jacoby Ford is ruled out of Monday’s season opener. He has a sprained left foot and missed six games last season with a similar injury. Ford suffered the injury in the second preseason game at Arizona. While MRI tests came back negative, Ford was in a walking boot for a few weeks and has not practiced with his teammates in three weeks. He has been a spectator on the sidelines and there is no timetable for his return.
Denarius Moore, who just returned to participate in practice has been limited as he recovers from that hamstring injury. Juron Criner has an ankle injury and both are questionable but expected to play on Monday.
Without Ford, the offense will have to rely heavily on Darius-Heyward Bey and Derek Hagan who just inked a new contract on Thursday. Hopefully a now-healthy Darren McFadden will also shoulder the load at running back. It’s been reported that backup running back Taiwan Jones will handle returning kicks, while cornerback Philip Adams is slated to do the same on punts—spots normally manned by Ford.
Among the Raiders’ questionable players, Criner may be the least likely to play. He was still visibly limping in practice. However, Coach Dennis Allen believes he will be ready to go Monday. All other questionable and probable players shoule be playing in Monday’s opener.
For the Chargers, ace running back Ryan Mathews is out despite optimism that he may be able to return after recovering from surgery to repair a broken clavicle. Mathews will be replaced at running back by veteran journeyman Ronnie Brown, but will likely be unable to 1,091 yard caliber impact Mathews had in 2011. This opens up an opportunity for the Raiders defense to up the ante on the pass rush of Philip Rivers, as the Chargers are walking in with an unproven ground game.
That means this could be a very low scoring game without either team having its primary offensive weapons, which is not the statement either team hopes to make to start the season. With both finishing 8-8 in 2011, it will be a race out of mediocrity, and that race may start slow for both unless some back-ups are able to step up.
Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.