The NFL and just about every professional sports league have seen a massive spike in positive COVID-19 tests over the last couple of weeks. The Las Vegas Raiders were able to avoid the surge a week ago, but they haven’t been so lucky over the past several days.
A few hours before the game on Monday, the Raiders placed starting slot cornerback Nate Hobbs on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and he’s been in protocol ever since. On the same day, the team also put starting outside corner Trayvon Mullen on injured reserve, ending his season, and two days later Mullen’s replacement, Brandon Facyson, tested positive for COVID. And unfortunately, the hits kept coming in Las Vegas’ defensive backfield.
The team learned on Monday that starting strong safety Johnathan Abram will have shoulder surgery and is done for the year. Even more bad news came on Thursday as Roderic Teamer landed on the COVID list, Abram’s presumptive replacement.
So, unless Hobbs, Facyson and Teamer can clear protocols in time, the Raiders will head into Sunday’s pivotal matchup against the Denver Broncos down three starting defensive backs and two potential replacements for those three. That’s not ideal for a must-win game.
If things hold as is, that should mean more playing time for cornerbacks Keisean Nixon and Desmond Trufant. Nixon played very well in Hobbs’ place last week, allowing just 17 receiving yards against the Browns, while Trufant has played sparingly - 59 defensive snaps - since joining the team in mid-October.
At safety, we could see Dallin Leavitt make his first NFL start as the four-year pro has gotten a decent amount of playing time in the Raiders’ dime packages this season. The other option would be rookie Tyree Gillepsie, who is currently on injured reserve nursing a hamstring injury, but Las Vegas did designate him to return a couple of weeks ago. Gillespie would be the bigger gamble of the two seeing as he only has seven NFL defensive snaps to his name.
Defensive back wasn’t the only position group for the Silver and Black that got bad news yesterday. Starting right tackle Brandon Parker sat out of practice with a knee injury while reserve offensive lineman Jermaine Elumenour also tested positive for the virus. In a worst-case scenario where both players are out, Jackson Barton is the only backup tackle listed on the active roster, and Barton made his NFL debut a few weeks ago and only has six plays of experience.
The Raiders also released their second injury report of the week yesterday, which, in addition to the players listed above, had defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (back), linebacker Will Compton (NIR-personal) and tight end Darren Waller (knee/back) listed as non-participants in practice. Waller has been out since Week 13, while Hankins has been battling through injuries for a few weeks, and Compton has been dealing with the passing of his mother.
The injury report wasn’t all bad news for Las Vegas, though. Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who has missed the team’s last two games with an ankle injury, was upgraded to limited on Thursday. The Pro Bowler’s return will be a welcomed sight against the Broncos’ run-heavy offense, it’s just a matter of if the Raiders can overcome all the other guys who could be out this weekend.
In other Raiders Links:
- Maxx Crosby gets a pay bump: the pass rusher’s 2022 salary will escalate to $3.861 million since he made the Pro Bowl this season.
- Madden doc premiers tomorrow: the NFL and Fox are set to release the All Madden documentary at 11 am PST on Christmas, right before the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns game.
- JC Tretter responds to Raiders’ criticism: many players felt the Brown’s center and president of the NFL Players Association played a part in getting last week’s game moved in an effort to give his team an advantage. However, Tretter said the game was very close to getting canceled and he was trying to make sure everyone gets paid.
- Rich Gannon throws shade at Derek Carr: the former Raiders’ quarterback tweeted: “What is the most important stat for a QB...Wins...period,” in what is assumed to be a jab at the Raiders’ current quarterback.