HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — The Las Vegas Raiders, already on a roll with three consecutive victories, could soon get a major infusion of offensive talent.
Tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (oblique) are eligible to come off injured reserve this week. Given the short turnaround to play at the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, the more likely scenario is both players will return next week.
Coach Josh McDaniels alluded Monday to when cornerback Nate Hobbs came off IR two weeks ago, but was ill and didn’t practice. As a result, Hobbs didn’t play that week at Seattle, but was activated for Sunday’s 27-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Raiders will have only walkthrough practices this week, so Waller and Renfrow won’t get a chance to get in a proper workout before returning to game action.
“Obviously, with no practice and those kinds of things, it’s a little bit of a unique situation,” McDaniels said. “We’re going to have some discussions, I think, later this morning once we kind of get a handle on where our team is relative to the health of it from yesterday’s game. … You’ve got to be careful a bit and try to make a smart decision, but we’re going to kind of let the health of the team assist us in some of those discussions.”
The Raiders (5-7) have more than made up for the losses of those players with their recent play, using the combination of wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Josh Jacobs to average just shy of 30 points in the past three games.
Adams has two 100-yard receiving games over those three weeks with four total touchdowns. Jacobs rushed for more than 100 yards each game with three total TDs.
The returns of Waller and Renfrow, whether it’s this week or next, would figure to only help the offense. Waller had 107 catches for 1,196 yards and nine TDs in 2020, though his numbers slipped to 55 receptions, 665 yards and two scores last season. Renfrow caught 103 passes last year for 1,038 yards and nine TDs.
Even if those two don’t return this week, the Raiders have shown they can win with the players they have. Now they face the defending champions, but at 3-9 the Rams resemble little of the team that held up the Lombardi Trophy in February.
“They’ve had challenges like we have in terms of health and all that, but this is a team that obviously is very resilient,” McDaniels said. “This team is going to battle, there’s no doubt about it, so going to have our hands full.”
The Raiders have discovered a pass rush the past three weeks, getting a combined 11 sacks. They had 10 in the first nine games. Against the Chargers, Las Vegas sacked Justin Herbert five times and hit him 14 times.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Las Vegas has to find ways to get off to better starts. The Raiders have been shut out in the opening quarter in four of the past six games, and they totaled 14 points. Opponents have scored 38 in the first period over that span.
DE Chandler Jones entered that Chargers game with a half-sack. He had three in the first half alone and made key tackle on Herbert that forced a turnover on downs. Jones also batted down a pass. This is the player the Raiders thought they were getting when they acquired him in the offseason.
Protecting the ball has suddenly become an issue. The Raiders have four turnovers in the past two games after committing just seven until then. Though they won both games, it’s not a sustainable path if the Raiders keep handing over the ball at that kind of rate.
CB Rock Ya-Sin (knee), DT Andrew Billings (fibula), LB Jayon Brown (hand) and CB Tyler Hall (back) did not practice Monday. Jacobs (quadriceps/calf), RB Ameer Abdullah (hamstring), CB Duron Harmon (quadriceps), C Andre James (quadricep), S Isaiah Pola-Mao (ankle) and DE Kendal Vickers (back) were limited.
100.4 — That is Derek Carr’s passer rating in his five Thursday appearances. He has thrown five touchdown passes without an interception.
The Raiders will have extra time to prepare for the Dec. 18 home game against the New England Patriots, where McDaniels spent 18 seasons, including 13 as offensive coordinator. The NFL on Monday flexed what was supposed to be the stand-alone Sunday night game to 4:05 p.m. EST.
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