Stopping Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense can be a challenge for even great defensive teams.
But this weekend the winless Raiders will try to do it with a patched-up secondary. That could make for a long and frustrating day for the fans in Oakland.
On Wednesday, starting cornerback Carlos Rogers missed practice again after missing last week’s game in Seattle with a knee injury. And rookie cornerback T.J. Carrie (who started last week as a replacement) and backup corner Chimdi Chekwa also didn’t practice.
It’s believed that Carrie (ankle) will be healthy enough to play, and Tarell Brown is good to go, but that could leave Carrie, Brown, D.J. Hayden and Neiko Thorpe as a patchwork group to face the NFL’s best passer.
Though the Oakland defense has played better at times in recent weeks, the Raiders secondary seems vulnerable against a passing attack that ranks No. 2 in the NFL, averaging 313.5 yards per game. The Raiders pass defense, meanwhile, is allowing opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 101.3 – the fifth-worst in the NFL – and have allowed 29 plays of more than 20 yards.
Raiders head coach Tony Sparano is hoping Carrie, a seventh-round pick who’s been a gem from this year’s draft, can be ready for Sunday.
“We’re just trying to get him through some of this right now and see where he is,” Sparano told reporters this week. “We need to get T.J. out there, but obviously if he’s not ready to go out there we can’t put him out there at this point. Today was a rehab day for him. We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
At least the Raiders have Charles Woodson at one safety spot. Woodson, 38, has had a terrific season – and Manning has noticed.
“Charles, to be playing as well as he is as a defensive secondary guy is pretty impressive,” Manning told Bay Area reporters on a conference call. “He’s making plays with his cover skills and kind of his ranging-roving skills, but I see him sticking his nose and shoulders in there and making tackles like he did when he was 23, 24 years old.”
Chances are, if the Raiders secondary is to contain Manning Sunday, Woodson will probably have to be making quite a few plays to help a limping, inexperienced group of cornerbacks.