With Burgess hobbling, Raiders face stiff test in Cleveland offense Print
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Wednesday, 19 September 2007 14:27
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 ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -The Oakland Raiders may have to solve their defensive problems of the first two weeks without their top pass rusher.
Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess missed practice Wednesday with a calf injury and his status for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns is in doubt.
If Burgess is unable to play, the Raiders would be forced to start rookie Jay Richardson against a Browns team coming off a 51-point performance.
``I'm just looking to fill in, do what I got to do, do my job and make sure there's no dropoff between me and him,'' Richardson said. ``Hopefully, he gets healthy and gets back in there, and we'll be ready to roll again. ... He's the man. He's a Pro Bowler, you know?''
Richardson, a fifth-round pick out of Ohio State, beat out third-rounder Quentin Moses for a roster spot and played well after Burgess went down in the fourth quarter last week against Denver.
But filling in for an entire game for a player as important as Burgess is a different matter. Burgess wouldn't comment on the injury and Kiffin would only say he hoped his star defender would be able to go Sunday.
But for now, the Raiders have to prepare without him.
``Whoever comes in has to go out and has big shoes to fill, but we have confidence in all our rushers to go out and get the job done,'' linebacker Kirk Morrison said. ``It doesn't matter who we put out there. That's why they made the football team, because we feel they can go help us out.''
Even with Burgess, the Raiders have had some surprising problems on defense in losing the first two games of the season.
A unit that ranked third in the NFL last season has allowed an average of 416.5 yards and 29.5 points per game this season - the worst two-game stretch for points since 2005, and for yards since 2004.
``We're two games into it, it's nothing to panic about,'' cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. ``But I don't think we're playing the same. It hasn't carried over completely yet. And those are things that still take a few games, hopefully.''
The main problems in the opener against Detroit were blown coverages that allowed the Lions to win 36-21. Last week in Denver, it was missed tackles that led to a 23-20 overtime loss to the Broncos.
Most galling is that the defense failed to protect a fourth-quarter lead in each of the first two games.
``I'm surprised at the struggles we've had, but were going to get it right,'' coach Lane Kiffin said. ``We're getting it figured out and we're going to start playing better defense.''
The next test comes Sunday against the Browns, who are coming off a 51-45 win over Cincinnati behind five touchdown passes from Derek Anderson.
It was a record-setting offensive performance for Cleveland, with a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher (Jamal Lewis) and two 100-yard receivers (Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow) for the first time since joining the NFL in 1950.
So the Raiders know they're in for quite a test this week.
``We're not playing against teams with a struggling offense,'' Morrison said. ``And Cleveland this week, these are teams that have been putting up points and putting up yards the last couple of weeks. So we know what we have to do to try and sustain what we're trying to build right now.''
It will be more difficult without Burgess. The Raiders have just four sacks through two games and will need to do a better job pressuring Anderson than they the did the first two weeks.
That puts more pressure on Richardson and rush specialist Chris Clemons, who usually plays the right side in passing situations. Kiffin acknowledged that if the front four doesn't provide more pressure, the Raiders may need to use more blitzes.
``If we're not getting a rush over there, if other guys aren't stepping up more, then you got to go to more pressures and you got to be more risky,'' Kiffin said.
 

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