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Raiders begin another week without top playmakers

JOSH DUBOW
AP Sports Writer

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – The Oakland Raiders began another week of practice Wednesday without three of their most dynamic playmakers on offense.

Star running back Darren McFadden (right foot) and big-play receivers Jacoby Ford (left foot) and Denarius Moore (right foot) all remain sidelined with injuries as the Raiders begin preparations for this weekend’s showdown with the undefeated Green Bay Packers.

This has been a recurring issue for the Raiders as McFadden has missed the past five games, Ford the past three and Moore the past two games with injuries that have clearly hampered Oakland’s offense.

Coach Hue Jackson said all three players are making progress but he still has no target date for when they will be able to return to practice, much less play in a game.

“This has been tough,” Jackson said. “I’ve quit trying to put percentages or days or anything on it. What I try to do with this football team is to keep us afloat and just keep playing. When those guys show back up they’re going to show back up, and I know they will at some point in time, and that’s all I can worry about is the guys that are out there practicing and playing, and go check on the guys that are not, and hopefully we can get them back soon and be part of this team.”

McFadden was one of the top backs in the league before spraining his foot in the first quarter of a 28-0 loss to Kansas City on Oct. 23. He had averaged 101.7 yards rushing per game and was fourth in the league with 761 yards from scrimmage.

Initially expected to miss only a few weeks, McFadden hasn’t been able to practice as the injury has taken a long time to heal. Michael Bush has filled in admirably, but running the ball has gotten much tougher the past two weeks without the speedy Ford and Moore on the outside to keep defenses honest.

Ford hurt his left foot while making a 41-yard catch in the first quarter of a 24-17 win at San Diego on Nov. 10. Moore picked up the slack with five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns that game but then got hurt on a punt return the following week in Minnesota.

With all three players out the past two weeks, the offense has struggled, scoring just one touchdown in a win over Chicago and falling behind 34-0 after three quarters in a loss at Miami last week.

“Every team that we play against focuses on a handful of guys offensively for us and normally it’s Jacoby or Denarius or Darren and when you don’t have that guy the defense focuses on usually, they turn to somebody else,” quarterback Carson Palmer said.

Much of that focus has been on Bush and the running game. Oakland’s rushing average has dropped from 156.8 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry the first 10 weeks to 59.5 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry the past two games as defenses dedicate more resources to stopping the run.

“We’re a team that likes to run the ball,” Jackson said. “So you’re going to stick eight, nine guys whatever you have to do up there to stop the run. And I think people look at the inactives and say, ‘OK, there’s Michael Bush and who else?’ At the end of the day, that’s what we’re facing and that’s OK. Our guys got to get people blocked, we’ve got to run like we know we can run, and get it done. That’s the bottom line.”

Despite the injuries, the Raiders have been one of the league’s best big-play teams this season with the second-most plays for at least 20 yards from scrimmage in the league. But many of those big-play makers have been on the sideline in recent weeks as Moore (11), McFadden (9) and Ford (6) have combined for more than 40 percent of them.

The Raiders need someone to start picking up that slack soon if they hope to end an eight-year playoff drought. Oakland is tied for first place in the AFC West with Denver with four games to play.

“The next guy has to step up,” receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said. “We have a lot of talent here so we’ve got guys capable of stepping up and making plays. It’s hard to replace a Darren and it’s hard to replace a Jacoby, but when we get those guys back, we’ll just be more explosive.”

Notes: CB Chris Johnson left the team after his sister was killed and his mother was shot in Fort Worth, Texas, on Monday. He is expected to be back in time to play this weekend. … The Raiders signed RB Lonyae Miller and LB Carl Ihenacho to the practice squad to take the place of TE Kevin Brock and LB J Leman.