ALAMEDA (AP) — The Oakland Raiders are preparing to make do without the anchor of their offensive line.
Center Rodney Hudson missed practice on Wednesday with a sprained ankle that knocked him out of last week’s loss at Houston and appears unlikely to be able to play this week against the Detroit Lions.
Hudson is one of the most valuable members of the offense for the Raiders (3-4) because of his strong blocking in the pass and run games and the ability to get the entire offense into the correct protections.
“That’s super big shoes to fill,” rookie backup Andre James said. “He’s a dude who can’t be replaced. I just try to do the best I can.”
Hudson left the game in Houston early with the injury and was replaced by James, a converted tackle who is just learning the position of center this year. The offense fared well with James, allowing no sacks and moving the ball efficiently despite losing 27-24.
“(Andre) came in and there was no drop off,” left guard Richie Incognito said. “He was confident in his points, battled his butt off and was battling with us. It was great. He did a really good job.”
James also missed practice Wednesday with a sprained ankle but said he expects to be able to play this weekend.
If he can’t go, Incognito worked at center in practice and could move there if necessary, despite not playing the position in a game since 2010. Oakland also signed Erik Magnuson off Buffalo’s practice squad this week for more depth at the position.
“It’s something that comes natural to me, snapping the ball making the points,” Incognito said. “It’s fun. It’s fun going back to center and learning something new.”
Hudson has been one of the most dependable blockers in the league in recent years. He has allowed zero sacks this season, according to game tracking by Sports Info Solutions, after giving up only one in each of the previous three seasons. That gives him just three sacks allowed in 2,032 pass-blocking snaps since the start of 2016.
He also hasn’t committed a single penalty while pass blocking the past three seasons and is also a key part of Oakland’s successful running game.
The offensive line has been a strength for Oakland this season despite having all five projected starters on the field together for just 10 plays. Incognito missed the first two games with a suspension and left guard Gabe Jackson missed the first five with a knee injury.
After Jackson returned, right tackle Trent Brown sat out a loss at Green Bay with a calf injury and then Hudson went down after 10 snaps in Houston in the first game with all five starters active.
“The only guy to start every game on the line has been Kolton Miller,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We’ve had three different left guards, three different right guards and three different right tackles.
And now potentially three different centers, so when you combine that with the youth at running back, the youth at tight end and then the changing of the guards at wide receiver, it’s been tough on Derek (Carr).”
But the patchwork line has kept Carr protected. The Raiders have allowed only eight sacks all season, one off the franchise low through seven games, and have matched a team record by going three straight games without allowing a sack. Oakland also ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
NOTES: The Raiders have signed four new players this week, bringing back LB Brandon Marshall after cutting him before the season and adding Magnuson, LB Will Compton and DT Terrell McClain. ... Oakland waived LB Justin Phillips, LB Dakota Allen, DE Kasim Edebali and DT Corey Liuget.