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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders will be without their top two running backs for Sunday's game in Baltimore after Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson missed a third consecutive day of practice.

Both players suffered high ankle sprains in last week's loss to Tampa Bay and have been wearing walking boots since then.

Coach Dennis Allen had been hopeful of getting at least one of the two back in time to play the Ravens. Now the Raiders will have to lean on a seldom-used third-string running back and a converted fullback to get the running game going.

``(Neither) of them made enough progress this week that they were able to be up,'' Allen said Friday. ``We'll probably be going through the same thing next week and we'll see where we're at.''

This marks the 14th game in five seasons McFadden has missed because of injuries. The fourth overall pick in 2008, he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule since entering the NFL.

McFadden was injured early in the first quarter against the Buccaneers when his left ankle bent awkwardly following a short gain. He remained in the game and continued to play before leaving for good with about nine minutes left in the first half.

Taiwan Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who has played primarily on special teams this season, and fullback Marcel Reece have been splitting reps in practice with Oakland's first team offense while McFadden and Goodson are sidelined. The team has also discussed the possibility of activating former Stanford running back Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad.

``Of course I'm very excited,'' Jones said. ``You've gotta be patient in this league. I've been waiting for my opportunity and it's here, so I'm going to try to make the most of it.''

Jones, who sat out the final six games of 2011 with a hamstring injury, has only one carry for two yards this year. He began the season as the Raiders kickoff returner but fumbled in his first play of the opener against San Diego.

Since then, Jones has seen very little playing time in the backfield but has emerged as Oakland's leading tackler on special teams.

Now that he's back on offense, the speedy Jones will pair with Reece in an attempt to spark a running game that ranks 31st in the NFL.

``I'm very aware that I'm not Darren McFadden,'' Jones said. ``The coaches, they do a good job of putting me in positions and giving me plays for what I can bring to the table. I'm not trying to be Darren McFadden or anyone else.''

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) will also miss the game. Desmond Bryant, who was pulled from last week's loss to Tampa Bay because of an irregular heartbeat, will start in Seymour's place.

Cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) has also been declared out while right tackle Khalif Barnes is questionable with a groin injury.

Notes: Stewart, an undrafted free agent who scored nine touchdowns during his senior season at Stanford in 2011, will accompany the team on the trip to Baltimore but a decision on his status probably won't be made until game time. ... Allen said he expects to activate cornerback Ron Bartell from the temporary injured reserve list before Sunday's game. Bartell, who has been out with a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1, will start if he's added to the 53-man roster. ... While the rest of his teammates were preparing for the short bus trip to the Oakland airport, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey went out to the practice field to catch passes from a Juggs machine. After leading the team in receptions a year ago, the former first-round pick has just 19 catches this season.

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NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

The annual NFL Combine kicks of Wednesday in Indianapolis. Whatever happens there -- receivers run fast, quarterbacks flash arm strength, defenders lack pop -- projections will change and in some cases significantly. Therefore here's my last look at the situation before all the sprints and lifts via mock draft 4.0 plus some other thoughts below.

* League sources offered up names of several prospects currently ranked all over the big boards with the chance to make a big splash during the combine. They include:

Alabama TE O.J. Howard -- Everybody already knows the 6-foot-6 Howard is a two-way monster. His Senior Bowl dominance certainly confirmed that. Rocking the Combine could alter his mid-to-late first round projection into 10-13 range where teams like New Orleans, Cleveland and Arizona have TE needs. Call me crazy, but if Howard is there when the Redskins pick at 17, I can imagine Washington thinkng long and hard about two-TE sets wth Jordan Reed. 

Oklahoma DT Charles Walker -- The Redskins have shown interest in Walker, according to a league source, though his draft range is all over the map. The interior force's redshirt junior season ended early due to a concussion followed by a decision to leave the Sooners early with draft preparation in mind. Was a second-team All-Big 12 selection as a junior thanks to six sacks. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Walker ninth among defensive tackles while WalterFootball.com projects the 304-pounder as a Day 2 pick.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

Pittsburgh OT Adam Bisnowaty -- Considered underrated despite starting four seasons for the Panthers. The left tackle helped key a resurgent season for the Panthers. Lack of wow prospects at the position means the order outside of Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin), Cam Robinson (Alabama) and Garrett Bolles (Utah) is in flux.

Ashland TE Adam Shaheen -- The D2 prospect is early candidate for the "Who is that guy?" award. Expect raves about Shaheen's size and athleticism. CBS Sports already has Day 2 projection on the 6-foot-6, 277-pounder who can run routes like a wide receiever. Could he move all the way into round 1?

Tulsa WR Keevan Lucas -- What the 5-foot-10 receiver lacks in height he makes up for with speed and production. Caught 81 passes for 1,180 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season with the Golden Hurricanes. Certain analytics show Lucas' production stood out  and put him in the same statistical company as future NFL receivers Stefon Diggs and Marqise Lee. Day 3 sleeper.

Other to watch: QB Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech), TE David Nkoju (Miami, Fl.), DT Ryan Glasgow (Michigan), CB Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)

* Look at Scot McCloughan's draft history and one theme emerges: The man likes seniors, especially in round one. Brandon Scherff and Josh Doctson were both four-year players. The bulk of first round selections during his time at Seattle and San Francisco. That doesn't mean McCloughan will go that way with the 17th overall pick; Of the top 19 ranked prospects according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay, 14 are underclassmen. But keep a close on seniors with early round projections like Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Temple inside linebacker Haason Reddick, Indiana guard Dan Feeney, LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, Washington wide receiver John Ross and Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

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Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

A decision on whether to cut or keep Dennis Pitta is one of many issues facing the Ravens this offseason.

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Ravens “may balk” at the $5.5 million salary Pitta is due next season. That makes sense, considering Pitta was just 28th in the NFL among tight ends in yards per catch (8.5) despite leading all tight ends with 86 catches. Pitta only had two touchdown catches, and there is concern he no longer has the speed to make explosive plays after two major hip surgeries.

Free agency begins March 9, but cutting Pitta with a June 1 designation would create the most cap space for the Ravens - $5.5 million.

However, if the Ravens release Pitta, they would turn the tight end position over to a question-filled group that includes:

Ben Watson – He is 36 years old, and missed all of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury. Cutting Watson and saving $3 million in cap space might make more sense than cutting Pitta. Especially if Pitta agrees to a pay reduction, as he did before last season.

Nick Boyle – He missed 10 games last season due to his second suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. Another suspension could lead to the end of Boyle’s career.

Crockett Gillmore – He must prove he can still healthy after missing seven games in 2016, and 15 games over the past two seasons.

Darren Waller – He was suspended four games in 2016 for his first PED violation, and he has caught just 12 passes in his first two seasons.

Maxx Williams – He is coming off major knee surgery.

Pitta remains a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco, and even if Pitta struggles to make splash plays, he is still a chain-mover as a possession receiver. You can make a case for cutting or keeping Pitta. The Ravens will soon make their verdict.

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