Oakland Raiders

Injuries force Raiders to evaluate younger players

The Oakland Raiders have lost Tyvon Branch, Nick Roach and Rod Streater for the season already. They lost D.J. Hayden for at least the first six games and now it looks like they may loose LaMarr Woodley and Usama Young for the final 10. For a team whose defense is borderline pathetic, losing two more players should be devastating — especially when one was a starter all season and the other became a starter once Branch went out for the year. But in this case, losing these two guys could be a blessing in disguise.

For anyone who has been hiding under a rock, the Raiders have no chance of finding real success this season. The most likely triumph: locking up the number one pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. So, while under normal circumstances losing starters is something teams would rather avoid, for the Raiders it could be good because it forces coaches to see what they have in untested youngsters.

Specifically, the Raiders will likely be playing Benson Mayowa and Jonathan Dowling much more as a result of the injuries to Woodley and Young. They also may promote defensive end Shelby Harris from the practice squad to see what he has to offer as well.

Chances are none of these guys will improve the play of this defense. It’s one of the worst in the league and even bringing in J.J. Watt wouldn’t solve all of the problems with that unit. But what it will do is give these guys a chance to learn and grow while also potentially showing the coaches they were underestimated.

It’s only Week 8, but it’s already time for the Raiders to start looking to the future, and that begins with getting a better look at what they have in young players. Woodley is not the future and Young has shown he is a good backup but not much more. With Mayowa, Dowling and Harris, the Raiders do not yet know what they have. At least for now that is.

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