Raiders backfield thinned by injuries

The Oakland Raiders may have to reach way down on the depth

chart to fill out their backfield for Sunday’s game in New

York.

Darren McFadden is sidelined again, this time with an ankle

injury. Rashad Jennings has made progress since sustaining a

concussion last week but has yet to be cleared. Not even

third-stringer Jeremy Stewart, who is nursing a combination of

ankle and knee injuries, was able to practice Wednesday.

That forced the Raiders to turn to a player who hadn’t taken a

single snap at running back since 2012.

Taiwan Jones, a fourth-round pick who was converted to

cornerback during the offseason, practiced with the first-team

offense and could conceivably start against the Jets if Oakland’s

injured running backs aren’t able to do so.

”Once I got out there everything started coming naturally, just

like riding a bike,” said Jones, who is also one of Oakland’s top

special teams players. ”The more reps I got, the more comfortable

I was. We’ve got a lot of backs down … so just in case. You’ve

got to prepare for the worst.”

The oft-injured McFadden has already missed four games this

season with hamstring injuries. He came back to play against Dallas

on Thanksgiving, but carried just five times for 13 yards and

apparently injured his ankle at some point during the 31-24

loss.

The fourth overall pick in 2008, McFadden was unable to practice

Wednesday and his status for Sunday is uncertain.

”It’s more than what we initially had thought so he wasn’t able

to go today,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. ”Hopefully we’ll

be able to get him out there soon but I don’t know.”

Jennings’ situation is just as questionable.

The veteran backup leads Oakland with a career-best 588 yards

and has provided Oakland’s running game with a much-needed boost

while McFadden has been out. Jennings, however, has not been

cleared to play since getting hit late in the fourth quarter

against Dallas after catching a short pass from quarterback Matt

McGloin.

Jennings, who missed the final four games of the 2012 season

with Jacksonville because of a concussion, passed some of the tests

required by the NFL for players with concussions and was limited in

practice.

With Stewart joining McFadden on the list of players not

practicing, Jones was pulled off defense and inserted into the

offense.

Later in the Raiders’ locker room, Jones got confused when the

players began leaving for meetings. He wasn’t sure whether to go to

the offense or defense.

”I’ll just start with special teams and go from there,” Jones

said.

Allen didn’t seem too concerned, even though the Jets own the

NFL’s top-rated run defense.

”We have to be prepared with the guys that we have to have

somebody step up,” Allen said. ”Taiwan’s done a great job for us

all year long on special teams. He’s played at a Pro Bowl level, so

having a guy with that type of versatility that can go over and

play defense but yet can be a guy that can get us some snaps on

offense if need be will be big for this game.”

The Raiders’ ability to run the ball could directly affect

McGloin.

Oakland’s undrafted rookie starter passed for three touchdowns

without an interception when the Raiders piled up 165 yards on the

ground against Houston on Nov. 17. They’ve had just 143 rushing

yards over the past two games, however, and McGloin’s performance

has dipped accordingly.

While he’s passed for 515 yards in the two games – both losses –

McGloin has thrown just one touchdown with two interceptions.

”I know the backs are helping each other out right now with

different things,” McGloin said. ”I have no doubt whatever guy

that’s in there will get the job done.”

NOTES: Strong safety Tyvon Branch practiced for the first time

since injuring an ankle against Jacksonville in Week 2. … Former

starting left guard Lucas Nix worked at right guard with the

starting offense, while Mike Brisiel sat out practice with a knee

injury. … WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), S Usama Young (neck) and

LB Kaluka Maiava (calf) did not practice.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org