The Raiders line up against the St Louis Rams in week 2 of the NFL season on Sunday. Both the Rams and Raiders come into this game at 0-1. And despite the Raiders being the favorites coming in, they could be without their best offensive lineman in Robert Gallery and their best defensive lineman in Richard Seymour.
Both players have hamstring injuries that have kept them out of practice all week. Gallery is officially listed as doubtbul and Seymour is officially listed as questionable. As “doubtful” suggests, it is highly unlikely that Gallery will play and with Seymour sitting out practice all week, combined with the Raiders having five defensive tackles on the roster, he may not go either.
Gallery has long been the best offensive lineman the Raiders have. Which is not saying much considering they have one of the worst overall offensive lines in all of football. Last season when Gallery went down with injury, the resulting carousel at left guard in his stead was a disaster. It became apparent very quickly just how valuable he is to this team. He is the guy that the team runs behind in short yardage situations.
There are two players that could step in for him this Sunday– Khalif Barnes or Daniel Loper. Barnes has proven to be a liability at the tackle position, but it remains to be seen if he could do any better at guard. Loper made the team after showing he was quite adept at executing the zone blocking scheme in the preseason. Loper is more likely to get the nod for that reason. But no offense to Loper, he is no Gallery.
Since moving to guard, Gallery has played at a Pro Bowl level and has, at times, actually masked some of the mistakes made by his fellow linemates– Mario Henderson in particular. Henderson relies on Gallery to pick up the slack on inside bull rushers and Gallery is usually there to provide such assistance. I highly doubt Loper will be able to do the same which means Henderson be vulnerable to the usual outside speed rush, as well as the inside moves. The result could be that of epic failure.
Last week, Rams defensive end Chris Long got into the Cardinals backfield several times. Three times he delivered hard hits on Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson. One of those hits was extremely brutal and had Anderson walking off the field in considerable pain. He looked as if he might be knocked out of the game. Need I remind anyone how many time defenders got in the backfield against the Raiders and lit up Jason Campbell last week? This could get ugly.
On the other side of the ball, Richard Seymour’s absense would be costly because he is by far the best run defender on this team. He has made an All Pro career out of stuffing the run. And like Gallery, he is the glue that holds the line together. Everyone must hold their assignment and the other defensive lineman know they can count on Seymour to be in his gap when he is needed.
If Seymour is indeed out, he will likely be replaced by Desmond Bryant. Bryant is considerably smaller than Seymour. He also is just entering his second year in the league. There is a quite a drop off between the two of them and that drop off is something around which the Rams will be planning their attack.
The Rams will undoubtedly make every attempt to take advantage of Seymour’s absense with a steady dose of their Pro Bowl battering ram, Steven Jackson. Just like in the Titans game, all they need to do is keep testing this Raider defensive line knowing eventually, they are going to break off a big run. A Run(s) that will likely go for a touchdown(s).
What this comes down to is, the Raiders are in danger of having a repeat of what happened last week against the Titans. With Campbell having no time to throw and with them giving up one or two long touchdown runs.
Going 0-2 is bad enough, but if one of those losses is against the lowly Rams, that would be truly devastating. If Seymour and Gallery are both out, their replacements will have some big shoes to fill and they are positions to keep a close eye on. You know the Rams will be.