With a disappointing 1-3 start to the 2012 regular season, injuries are hurting the Oakland Raiders more than anything, especially to starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Now with Oakland on a bye this week, the team must get healthy during their time off.
Bartell was placed on the reserve/injured list allowing him to return this season. Unfortunately for the Raiders he cannot play again until November 11 and cannot begin practicing until October 27. Spencer could be back after the bye week, but has missed the last two games with a sprained foot. When Bartell and Spencer lined up together in week one against the San Diego Chargers, the Raiders allowed 231 passing yards and one touchdown. In the last two games with both out, Oakland's secondary has given up 384 yards and four touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger and 338 yards and three touchdowns to Peyton Manning. The Raiders have zero interceptions this season.
The injuries in the secondary have impacted what the Raiders can do as far as scheme and plays on defense. Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson are not starting cornerbacks in the NFL. Michael Huff is a safety masquerading as a cornerback. Because they are such a liability, the Raiders have to play soft zone coverage. The coverage has been shredded by quarterbacks like Manning and Roethlisberger, who will exploit the defensive weaknesses. In an effort to hide the awful secondary play, Oakland has tried to blitz opposing quarterbacks to force the ball to come out quickly, but it has been ineffective because the pressure does not get there.
Another player thought to be a key cog this season was linebacker Aaron Curry, who was placed on the physically unable to perform list before the season started. He is eligible to return to practice after week six. Curry started nine games for the Raiders last season after being traded from the Seattle Seahawks.
On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey should return after the bye week. The receiver is dealing with a concussion from a vicious and illegal Ryan Mundy hit during the Steelers game. He must pass all the NFL concussion tests and protocols before he returns. Right tackle Khalif Barnes is dealing with a groin injury that has kept him out the last two games. In his absence the Raiders have had a difficult time protecting quarterback Carson Palmer, especially against Denver.
After the bye, the Raiders travel to play the Atlanta Falcons, who have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the NFL. It they don't get some capable, healthy bodies the secondary it will be another long night of passing yards given up and third down conversions.
Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.