Raiders preparing to play without key wide receivers
By MICHAEL WAGAMAN
Nov. 30, 2017
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Raiders coach Jack Del Rio wasn't happy with the two-game suspension handed to wide receiver Michael Crabtree earlier this week and his feelings didn't change much after it was reduced to one game.
With Amari Cooper questionable this week with a concussion and ankle sprain, Crabtree's absence means Oakland likely will be without its top two receivers heading into Sunday's game against the New York Giants.
"The league has to do what it has to do," Del Rio said Wednesday. "I'll do my job. My job is to coach the guys. I don't have to like everything they do and often I don't. This would be an example of that."
Crabtree was disciplined by the NFL following an on-field fight with Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib in the first quarter of the Raiders' 21-14 win last week. Both were originally suspended two games by the NFL before each won their appeal to get the suspension reduced.
That means that Crabtree will be back for Oakland's Week 14 game in Kansas City, a game that could factor heavily in the race for the AFC West title.
In the meantime, the Raiders will face the Giants without Crabtree and possibly Cooper as well. Cooper was hurt in the second quarter when he was hit by Denver safety Darian Stewart. Stewart was penalized for unnecessary roughness after Cooper was helped off the field.
The fourth overall pick in 2015, Cooper has not missed a game in two seasons but seems likely to sit out this week. He was limping noticeably as he left the Raiders locker room following the game and was not at practice on Wednesday.
Cooper, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, and Crabtree are tied with tight end Jared Cook for the team lead in receptions with 42 and have combined for 11 of Oakland's 17 touchdown receptions this season.
That's a major chunk of the offense that will be missing if Cooper is inactive.
Without Crabtree and Cooper, the Raiders will turn to Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson and Johnny Holton to fill the void. Oakland also promoted wide receiver Isaac Whitney from the practice squad and added him to the 53-man roster.
Roberts has 24 catches for 262 yards this season as Oakland's No. 3 receiver while Patterson has caught 21 passes for 186 yards, including a game-clinching 54-yard reception against the Broncos last Sunday.
Quarterback Derek Carr doesn't sound concerned. Other than getting additional work with the three in practice, Carr expects things to be similar.
"Next man up is always our mantra and what we stand by and that's how any football team needs to be," Carr said. "At the same time I do need to spend extra time with them because the guys that get all the reps with me usually are Coop and Crab. Seth gets a lot of reps with me, CP on certain things, Johnnie on certain things. But now we have to make sure that we get all of those reps that sometimes they wouldn't get with me."
The Raiders will also lean more heavily on Cook, who has become one of Carr's favorite options since signing with the team as a free agent this past offseason.
"We've played him at receiver, we've played him at tight end, we've played him at different spots in the wing and certain things like that," Carr said.
"It's fantastic because you need to have weapons, especially when things like this happen. When you have a lot of weapons it's nice that when injuries or a suspension or anything like that happens we can still play football and move forward."
Giants coach Ben McAdoo said he expects the Raiders to try to run the ball more to make up for the absence of the two receivers.
Carr chuckled when asked about that.
"I think we're going to go wing-T," Carr said. "We're going to run the triple option. Hopefully that doesn't get out."
NOTE: Starting cornerback David Amerson practiced for the first time in nearly a month, a good sign for Oakland's struggling secondary.