When you lose a player of Rodney Hudson’s caliber, as the Raiders did during Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Houston Texans, you don’t just replace him. Hudson is one of the best centers in the league. Tried and tested in his ninth season, Hudson is the engine of the Raiders’ offense in many ways.
His strength and athletic ability to get to the second level and onto linebackers is a key component of the Raiders’ power rushing attack — which is the identity of the offense behind running back Josh Jacobs. In the passing game, he helps Derek Carr set the protection and makes sure the rest of the offensive line is on the same page.
Here are five questions and answers about the Raiders and the NFL off Sunday’s games.
Question No. 1: Can the Raiders overcome the loss of Hudson, if his ankle injury is severe?
If his first offensive playing time is any indication, undrafted center Andre James may be an OK replacement. He appeared to be a natural after he entered the game at 6:01 of the first quarter.
While James is far from the athlete Hudson is and doesn’t get down the field as well, he did a nice job in the running game as the Raiders continued to have success there. And in pass protection, James didn’t have any outward issues — although he received a lot of help from left guard Richie Incognito and will be targeted by future teams. He played strong against a good defensive front, including Texans nose tackle D.J. Reader, who can be tough to handle.
What’s amazing is that James was a tackle at UCLA and now he’s playing a completely different position.
“He was an athletic, versatile, smart player at UCLA,” said a West area scout for an NFL team. “His ideal position is center, and it looks like he’s gotten that chance. Biggest issue was lack of size/bulk/power at UCLA, so guard wasn’t ideal. I’m curious to see how he does.”
Obviously the Raiders are better with Hudson in the middle, but things don’t appear like they’re dire without him, thanks to the job done by general manager Mike Mayock and the front office in identifying James.
Question 2: Why did the 30-yard pass to Darren Waller in the second quarter get called back for offensive pass interference?
Against man-coverage teams, offenses will often use rub routes or pick plays to free up receivers. Jon Gruden dialed one up at the 7:01 mark when Hunter Renfrow ran a slant into Texans safety Mike Adams, who was in coverage against Waller. The officials made the call, and Gruden threw a futile challenge flag.
Pick plays are legal if they occur within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage or if there’s no intent to keep the defender from staying in coverage. Renfrow contacted Adams 2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and clearly the intent was there. It was the correct call.
Question 3: Did the New England Patriots’ defense show a sign of weakness against the Browns?
Perhaps. After its 27-13 victory over the Browns to improve to 8-0, New England’s defense is still on pace to break the 2000 Ravens’ record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season (165; Patriots are on pace for 122).
But they allowed Nick Chubb and the Browns to rush 22 times for 159 yards (7.2 average). That’s the fourth game in the past five that New England has allowed the opponent to average at least 4.1 yards per attempt.
Why is that significant? They visit the Ravens, who had a bye this week, on Sunday. Baltimore leads the league with 204.1 rushing yards per game, and 5.54 yards per attempt. If the New England defense has a weakness, it might be against the run.
“Obviously, we can do better,” said Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Question 4: Did coach Matt Nagy cost the Bears a crucial win against the Chargers?
Yes. The Bears trailed Los Angeles 17-16 with less than a minute left when they entered field-goal range at the Chargers’ 34-yard line. Instead of getting as close as possible or being more aggressive, Nagy called three straight runs, including a kneel-down at the Chargers’ 22 with 43 seconds remaining. Eddy Pineiro barely missed a 41-yard field goal wide left.
Nagy, whose team dropped to 12th in the NFC at 3-4, was defiant after the game, first about the first two play calls before the field-goal attempt and then about the kneel-down
“I’ll just be brutally clear: Zero thought of throwing the football, zero thought of running the football. You understand me? That’s exactly what it was. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Question 5: Will the Falcons fire coach Dan Quinn?
Probably. Atlanta dropped to 1-7 after a 27-20 loss to the Seahawks that saw them fall behind 24-0 at halftime at home. The Falcons now have a bye week, which is never good for the coach of a struggling team. And owner Arthur Blank for the first time didn’t immediately voice his confidence in Quinn, who led the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2016 — where they blew a 28-3 lead to the Patriots — but dropped to 8-16 in the last season-plus.
“We’ll take the next couple of weeks during this bye period of time and evaluate where we are,” Blank told reporters.
That’s usually not a good sign for the coach.