Oakland’s secondary to be without CB Johnson
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson doesn’t seem too concerned that his team could be without two starters in its secondary for Sunday’s game against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Since taking over for Tom Cable, Jackson hasn’t let his players make excuses and he’s not about to start doing it himself.
That faith will be tested if free safety Michael Huff can’t play. Huff suffered a concussion in last week’s win over the New York Jets and was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report Friday.
With cornerback Chris Johnson already out because of a hamstring injury, the Raiders will have to turn to their bench for help in trying to slow down the NFL’s top-ranked offense led by the AFC’s best quarterback in Brady.
“Next man up,” Jackson said. “Can’t worry about it. (If) he’s out, he’s out. Next man up.”
Johnson injured his hamstring early in last week’s 34-24 win against New York and hasn’t practiced this week. Backups Joe Porter and Chimdi Chekwa took turns replacing Johnson against the Jets until defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan opted to stay with Chekwa, a fourth-round draft pick this year.
Jackson declined Friday to say who would start at right cornerback in place of Johnson.
“I’ll make that decision tonight over my Irish coffee,” Jackson said. “We’re going to put the healthiest players out there that we can. The No. 1 objective (is) winning the game but also make sure that we have healthy players.”
The loss of Huff might be more significant.
New England’s most productive receiver through three games has been Wes Welker, who lines up in the slot, while tight end Rob Gronkowski has a team-leading five touchdown receptions.
Huff would likely match up against one of the two if he’s able to play. He was limited Wednesday, backed off a bit on Thursday then was held out of all drills entirely on Friday.
Jackson indicated that Huff has passed the requisite tests players must go through after suffering concussions, though he was unclear on whether Huff had suffered a setback or not.
“Once you pass a test, there’s still other factors you have to pass that are outside of the test,” Jackson said. “We’ll just keep working through those.”
Tyvon Branch will likely slide over to free safety if Huff can’t play.
“The way our secondary is, it’s just plug a guy in,” Branch said. “We draft guys and bring guys in that can play corner and safety, strong, free, it doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty of this team.”
Oakland was forced to scrap most of its man-to-man coverages when both players went down against New York and went to more zone calls. The Jets wide receivers said later the change caused them a lot of confusion.
Whether the Raiders use the same strategy against the Patriots is uncertain. Brady leads the NFL in passing yards (1,327), touchdown passes (11) and is second to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in passer rating (113.8) and completion percentage (69.9).
The good news for Oakland is that its own high-powered offense may get a boost with the possible return of wide receiver Jacoby Ford. Ford, who has not played since the season-opener when he strained a hamstring, was limited in practice Friday and is questionable but said he expects to play.
Quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Darren McFadden, who are both on the injury report, are listed as probable.