Week in, and week out, keeping Derek Carr safe is a priority for the Oakland Raiders, but that task will likely be a little more challenging come Sunday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Cincinnati Bengals – the Silver and Black's Week 15 opponent – rank just 25th in total sacks with 28, and while their defensive stats may not strike fear in much of anyone, the Raiders will likely be working with a patchwork interior along their offensive line.
While Rodney Hudson has been a consistent presence in the middle of the line all season, the players occupying the spots to his left and right have changed a little bit over the coming weeks, and with Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele unable to practice – combined with versatile swing lineman Jon Feliciano now on the Reserve/Injured list – it has resulted in a little lineup uncertainty for Head Coach Jon Gruden.
"It's going to be determined here in the next few days," said Coach Gruden when asked about the starting interior line. "We'll use today to get Chaz Green and Denzelle [Good] and Cam Hunt some work and hope for the best."
Speaking of Cam Hunt, after spending the offseason and training camp with the Silver and Black, the team brought the former Oregon Duck back into the fold earlier this week, along with guard/tackle Denver Kirkland.
As we said earlier, both Osemele and Jackson didn't practice on Wednesday, and with just a few days left on the practice field before the team flies to Ohio, Coach Gruden still doesn't really have a sense or how close either one or both of them is physically to being able to go to work against the Bengals.
The Raiders return to the practice field to prepare for the Bengals following their win against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14.
"I know that both of them are as tough as they come and if there's a will, there's a way," Gruden explained. "They have the will, I know that. We'll just hope for the best. Like we've done at other positions on offense, we'll have to rally around the next guy up."
Whether those guys end up being Green, Good, Hunt, Kirkland or some combination of that group, the Raiders will no doubt have a challenge keeping the Bengals defensive line at bay.
"It will be very challenging, especially against a good defense," Derek Carr said. "Their front, obviously we know they got good players. It just is what it is this year. Guys are hurt, guys are leaving the building and we are getting new guys in. It's next man up, but just the mentality that coach Gruden and I have together is, however it unfolds we are going to give Cincinnati our best shot."
We'll certainly know more about the health of the offensive line as the week progresses, but whoever ends up getting the call, keep an eye on how the unit as a whole performs against the Bengals.