The Oakland Raiders are in midseason form in an area they do not wish – injuries.
That scenario is normally expected by the middle of the season but the Raiders enter Sunday's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals handicapped at safety and wide receiver. Granted, the situation is not entirely gloomy but it's not what the Raiders envisioned in Week 2 of the regular season.
Two starters, free safety Rod Woodson (knee) and wide receiver Jerry Porter (abdominal), will be out of action for an undetermined length of time. Porter missed much of the second half in the Raiders' 25-20 loss to Tennessee, which hamstrung their ability to employ the deep pass since Porter is a receiver who can stretch the defense.
Sure, the Raiders are not lining up Larry, Curly and Moe at receiver because they still have future Hall-of-Famers in Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. Porter's absence, however, means that receivers such as Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel and Alvis Whitted will have to contribute in areas other than special teams.
"Obviously losing Jerry Porter is important," Brown said. "The young guys have to step up. If they're good enough to make the team running down the field to cover kickoffs, then they're good enough to make plays at receiver."
Porter's loss could also be an opportunity for rookie tight end Teyo Johnson to line up as a receiver. Johnson is a converted tight end after playing at Stanford as a receiver. While Oakland's base offense is a three-receiver set, it could also employ more two-back formations.
The loss of Woodson, who underwent surgery Tuesday, however, makes the safety position sticky. Derrick Gibson is the starter at strong safety. Anthony Dorsett is the Raiders most experienced play at free safety. The only problem is that Dorsett is listed as questionable with an ankle injury.
"I'm going to take it day to day," Dorsett said. "The worst thing I could do is rush out for this game and injure myself worse. I'm going to do what's right for me."
If Dorsett cannot go, that leaves cornerback Terrence Shaw as the likely candidate to start at free safety.
"You've got to be disciplined," Shaw said of playing safety. "You've got to be able to see the quarterback. You've got to be able to help the other guys. It's about recognition."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org