The Oakland Raiders haven’t done a very good job of avoiding the injury bug this year.
The latest victim to get taken down is starting strong safety Tyvon Branch, who is out indefinitely with what is believed to be a fractured fibula.
“He’s probably going to miss some time,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “How much that time is, I don’t know.”
Branch is the Raiders’ highest-paid player this season at $9.5 million and has been an anchor on Oakland’s defense during his tenure with the team. The fourth-round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft has played 72 career games with the Raiders and has accumulated 345 tackles, seven sacks, and four interceptions in his five-year career.
Branch’s injury presents the Raiders with some options. They can move Charles Woodson to strong safety and then have Usama Young relieve Woodson’s duties at free safety, or they can keep Woodson at free safety and start replacement strong safety Brandian Ross in Branch’s role. And if none of those prove to be a solid option, they can always just mix and match throughout the game.
Either way, Dennis Allen seems to be pretty confident in the Raiders’ depth at the safety position.
“Listen, if Ty’s out a while, then we’ve got guys that we feel like can step up and make plays, whether it’s strong safety, free safety,” Allen said. “To me, I look at those as interchangeable positions and they really need to be to have the flexibility to do some different things defensively.”
A fractured fibula is a tough injury for any team’s starting safety to go through, but it’s even worse for the Raiders because Branch is such a vital part to the team’s defense. His injury will force players to step up and make the most of their opportunity, and it seems as though their head coach holds the utmost confidence in them. Oakland’s defense has looked surprisingly impressive through the team’s first two games of the season and Branch’s injury is just a punch in the gut to a group of guys that are looking to make a new name for themselves.
The Raiders will be looking forward to the day that their 26-year-old strong safety will return to the playing field, but until then, it will be all about trusting the next guy to step up and prove himself.