ALAMEDA — The Raiders are still trying to figure out how to survive early portions of this season without their top guards.
Richie Incognito will miss two games serving a suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy, though Jonathan Cooper seems like a plug-and-play option on the left side.
Gabe Jackson’s MCL injury poses bigger problems on the right. He’ll be gone into a Week 6 bye, using a recovery estimate established after he got hurt Aug. 8, though a return after that is certainly possible.
Super interior-line substitute Jordan Devey has been given the first shot to replace Jackson, and it seems likely he’ll do exactly that.
Don’t write Devey into that role in permanent ink just yet though, because the Raiders are considering all options.
Denzelle Good has returned to practice after back surgery and will be given a shot to contribute inside.
“Devey’s going to be fine,” Gruden said. “Denzelle Good is also back practicing at right guard. It’s good to see Good. We need some good things out of the big man.”
Good can play on either side. He was, after all, set to start at left guard until Incognito was signed.
Denver Kirkland is a backup option on the right as well, and head coach Jon Gruden said he’ll experiment with other options in Thursday’s exhibition finale at Seattle.
“Cooper is going to play some right guard this week against Seattle,” Gruden said. “[Lester] Cotton is going to play a lot at left guard. We like him, too. We have some guys who are emerging and some players coming back. Hopefully, they can hold down the fort, because they have to replace a great player.”
Jackson will be sorely missed moving forward. Of all the training camp developments, his injury will have the greatest impact on the regular season despite the fact it was never mentioned on “Hard Knocks.”
Establishing a new depth chart at guard for Jackson (and Incognito, early) is key to the team’s offensive function and must still be worked out completely as the regular season encroaches.
— Defensive tackle Justin Ellis has a knee injury that puts his status for the regular-season opener in jeopardy. There’s more uncertainty around his roster spot than ever, too, considering how well undrafted free agent Anthony Rush has played behind Johnathan Hankins.
— Fourth-round draft pick Isaiah Johnson took a Marquel Lee knee to the head in the exhibition opener and hasn’t been back since. He was diagnosed with a concussion, but when asked Sunday about his prolonged absence, Gruden said Johnson was struggling with a facial injury. His availability for the season opener is also in question. It also raises the possibility that he could be an IR stash. It’s tough for rookies to recover from missing so much preseason work, especially for players like Johnson, who don’t have much experience at their current position. At the least, it has provided opportunities for young cornerbacks battling to make the squad.
— Receiver J.J. Nelson continues to miss time with an ankle sprain. The Raiders don’t consider it serious, with a decent chance he’ll be ready for the regular season.
— Rookie edge rusher Maxx Crosby returned to practice and is on schedule to have surgery to repair a fractured hand. He should be able to play through parts of his rehab by wearing a cast. Getting some experience Thursday against Seattle would be helpful after he missed two straight preseason games and the practices in between.