HENDERSON, Nev. -- With the Las Vegas Raiders' entire starting offensive line on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday after right tackle Trent Brown tested positive this week, what would a line protecting quarterback Derek Carr and blocking for running back Josh Jacobs look like against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Avert ye eyes, Raider Nation. And grab a media guide.
But keep in mind, just because left tackle Kolton Miller, left guard Denzelle Good, center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson (along with safety Johnathan Abram) are on the list because they were deemed high-risk contacts with Brown does not necessarily mean they are all out of Sunday’s game, which was flexed out of an 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff to 4:05 p.m. ET (more on that later).
Rather, by being placed on the COVID-19 list, the players are to be quarantined for five days plus the last day of contact with Brown, which was Monday. That means they could all conceivably be cleared Sunday morning should they test negative all week and then with a point of contact (POC) test Sunday morning.
But that would also mean no practice and less prep time for the game (still, the players have been doing "virtual preparation" in advance of them being cleared to play). Plus, the Raiders have only five other offensive linemen on their current 53-man roster and two others on the practice squad.
A team can dress eight offensive linemen on game day, provided it dresses 48 players total. But adding a free agent at this late juncture does not work, either, since he would have to go through a six-day entry protocol.
And as an NFL spokesperson said, "There's no discussion of moving the game off of Sunday given the current circumstances." So there. Even if it makes more sense on the streets of Silver and Blackdom to merely move the game to Monday or Tuesday for competitive reasons. And the NFL recently moved the schedule for the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots. The Raiders having already had their bye week no doubt complicates things, especially with the Tampa Bay game being a nonconference affair.
Introducing, then, a Raiders offensive line not anchored by Hudson and Miller. One that would face a Buccaneers defense that has 22 sacks, tied for second in the NFL, and just did a number on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Going by the team's official depth chart, Brandon Parker (15 starts in 29 games played over three seasons, though mostly at right tackle) would be the left tackle; rookie fourth-rounder John Simpson (one start in three games) at left guard; James (one start in 17 games) at center; Omameh (57 starts in 81 games in seven seasons, though none for the Raiders) at right guard; and Sam Young (22 starts in 95 games over 11 seasons, with one start in three games for Las Vegas) at right tackle.
The two practice-squad offensive linemen: Erik Magnuson (three starts in nine games, including one appearance for the Raiders) and Jaryd Jones-Smith (has not yet played in a game).
"The beautiful thing about football and football players, we've been taught, really brainwashed since we were kids, that if someone goes down, it's next man up," Carr said. "You go to practice, you lose a starter, you lose this guy, you lose that guy and you just play. It's a weird thing because it doesn't seem normal to rationally think that way. But we come out here to practice and I have a center that has started games, and I've played with. I have a left guard I've played with. I have a right guard I've played with. I have a left tackle I've played with.
"Yeah, they're not the starters, but I've played with them."
Carr said during training camp coach Jon Gruden mixed and matched starters with third-stringers on the line.
"We're used to playing with each other," Carr said. "So when something happens like that, it’s not as big a shock to us in the building as it would be for someone [outside]. Do we miss those guys? Absolutely. I'm human ... we're going to miss them if they can't play.
"But when you come out to practice, when you go to take that snap, I'm thinking about 100 different things. Not just that, I'm trying to execute my assignment. Then you turn the film on and say, 'OK, what went down?' ... that's just how we're brainwashed. It's kind of sick like that."