The Oakland Raiders are back.
Well, at least back to the Coliseum, where they have not played in 49 days, as they look to climb back to .500 on the season and get back in the thick of the playoff race halfway through the season.
The Raiders (3-4) host the Detroit Lions (3-3-1) Sunday, where there will be yet another kink for the offensive line.
Incognito is listed to play at the center position this Sunday, a new task with different challenges that Incognito said Wednesday he looks forward to:
“Center is a lot more cerebral. You’re trying to be clear with the point, so everyone else can get lined up. At guard you’re kind of just waiting for the center to make a point and just be physical and run off the ball. At center you got a lot going on pre-snap.”
The 36-year-old played center in 2010 with the Miami Dolphins, but it’s been nearly a decade since he delivered a snap.
Starting center Hudson went out last Sunday six minutes into Oakland’s 27-24 loss at Houston. Rookie Andre James stepped in and the offense did not skip a beat. However, both Hudson and James have ankle sprains and did not practice Wednesday.
To combat the injuries suffered at the center, Oakland signed C Erik Magnuson. The third-year pro from Michigan says he is doing everything he can to pick up the offense:
“A lot of information crammed in one morning, but its pretty similar to offenses I’ve ran in the past … It’s a lot of information. It’s difficult, but I’ve played in six different systems maybe seven including college, so there is overlap.”
The former 49er is just the latest example of the Raiders flexing their revamped, heavily-invested offensive line. Despite all the shifting, the offensive line has allowed only eight sacks all season, and none since Week 5 against Indianapolis.
Last year the Raiders gave up a whopping 52 sacks, by far the most in the league.
Quarterback Derek Carr has noticed the impact a clean pocket does for him and the team.
“You have to play quarterback a different way when there’s not as much time. You can’t go to a third and fourth progression … you have to move faster … You can be a completely different player when you have that kind of time.”
“We’re going to go as that offensive line goes. They’re the best football players on the team by far.”
The Raiders return to Oakland for a home game for the first time since Week 2. One of the more brutal schedules in the league, Head Coach Jon Gruden said the hardest part of the trip was:
“Explaining it to my wife and friends. And everybody in this league that has never done it. I hope they do it to everybody in our division next year. I think every team should have an opportunity to go on the road for six weeks.”
As Gruden passes the sarcasic answer, he says the trip was “tough” because of the distance the team traveled:
“They weren’t close trips. They were overseas trips, across the country trips, every one of them, so it was a challenge.”
The Raiders traveled an estimated 21,000+ miles, which is more than 22 teams travel all season.
The Raiders made no trades at the Tuesday deadline, surprisingly, as they have needs in the secondary and at linebacker.
However, the team announced that they brought back linebacker Brandon Marshall. The now 30-year-old had signed with the Raiders in the offseason before he was surprisingly cut due to injuries.
The depletion at the linebacker position grew as the Raiders waived linebacker Justin Phillips, who suffered a knee injury against the Texans.
Gruden “hopes” Marshall remembers the defense and can plug right in:
“There’s a lot of communication. The middle linebacker is the quarterback of your defense, so we lose [Vontaze] Burfict we lost a big piece of our communication … we need Brandon to get the system rewired and we need him to communicate it so he can get ready to go on Sunday.”
The move was a smart one by Oakland, as they have not gotten over the loss of Vontaze Burfict, suspended by the NFL for the rest of the season on Sept. 30.