Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

October 31, 2008
McFadden is doubtful

ALAMEDA - There will be no Run DMC this Sunday at the Coliseum unless it's coming over the loudspeakers.

Running back Darren McFadden (toe) is doubtful for Sunday's game against Atlanta, as are defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps), linebacker Jon Alston (foot) and linebacker Ricky Brown (groin).

Robert Thomas will fill in for Brown.

Safety Gibril Wilson was moving good after practice while working on a tackling angles against practice squad running back Louis Rankin. He'd missed two practices because of a toe injury but looks ready to go.

Thomas said, "It felt like as soon as I came back here like I'd never left," of his return to the Raiders and now a starter after re-signing last week.

Because he was released with an injury settlement in September, Thomas had to wait six weeks before returning to an NFL team.

*The only depth chart update is Tyvon Branch will return kickoffs instead of Johnnie Lee Higgins.

Higgins' blunder in Baltimore of catching the ball at his own two yard-line and running out of bounds helped give the job back to Branch.

Branch averaged 14.6 yards on kickoff returns. He said film study and an emphasis on making quicker decisions should improve that.

"It's a lot faster than college," Branch said. "Guys are getting down there a lot quicker."

Higgins will remain the team's punt returner.

*The Raiders have gone more than four seasons without a punt or kickoff returned for a touchdown.

The last time the Raiders managed to do either happened was Dec. 28, 2003.

That's when Doug Gabriel returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and Phillip Buchanon returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown.

Higgins and Branch were expected to be an upgrade over Chris Carr, who left as a restricted free agent for Tennessee.

The Raiders have gotten improvement from Higgins over his rocky rookie season.

In 20 punt returns as a rookie in 2007, Higgins gained a meager 103 yards. And 54 of those yards came on one return get his average to 5.4 yards per return.

Without the one long return, Higgins's average was 2.6.

He also fumbled four times, which led to him losing job to Carr and journeyman Tim Dwight.

This season Higgins has 21 returns for 192 yards (9.1 average) and three returns of more than 20 yards with a long of 35.

Higgins hasn't fumbled a punt this season.

Branch's 28.9-yard average on kickoffs was a big reason the Raiders drafted him. But his injury in the preseason left most of the job to Higgins (23.6 yards per return).

Since leaving the Raiders' Carr is averaging career-highs in kickoff returns (29.6 yards) and on punts (10 yards).

*DeAngelo Hall is not happy with Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz.

Here's what Schultz wrote about Hall in his weekly picks column:

"I just took the rollercoaster through DeAngelo Hall's cranium in the AJC. He said he considered not playing football anymore. Funny. I thought he quit last season. Bounce-back week: Falcons cover 3."

So there is someone in Atlanta that Hall doesn't care for.

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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