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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Already staggering from back-to-back poor performances, the Oakland Raiders will likely be without two of their starting linebackers for Sunday's game in New England.
Middle linebacker Nick Roach is still recovering from a concussion he suffered during the preseason and has only recently returned to practice on a limited basis. Roach, who played every defensive snap in 2013, has yet to be cleared through the NFL's protocol for concussions and is questionable to play against the Patriots.
"My job now is just to try to get back as soon as I can," Roach said Friday. "You want to be there for your team in any way possible. I try to communicate with the guys whenever I can, anything to help them execute at a high level."
The Raiders are hopeful Roach will be cleared in time to play, though it's likely to be a game-time decision. The veteran linebacker said he's feeling better but he and the team continue to take a cautious approach given the nature of his injury.
"He's still going through the protocol," Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. "He's getting better every day. Hopefully, he'll continue to improve."
Outside linebacker Sio Moore has already been ruled out because of an ankle injury suffered in last week's loss to Houston.
Without Roach and Moore, the Raiders will likely start Kaluka Maiava in the middle and slide Miles Burris outside. Burris started the previous two games inside while filling in for Roach.
"(Roach) is an important piece to our defense as far as our ability to get everybody lined up," Allen said. "His familiarity with what we're trying to get done defensively is a big piece of our ability to play good defense. But Miles has gone in there and done a nice job."
The winless Raiders own the NFL's worst run defense despite adding several key free agents like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith in the offseason.
They've given up 400 yards on the ground, with breakdowns coming across the board.
In the 30-14 loss to the Texans, Oakland failed to register a single sack. Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for two touchdowns and had a 129.1 passer rating, while running back Arian Foster ran for 138 yards and a touchdown.
That came on the heels of a season-opening 19-14 loss to the New York Jets when Chris Ivory put up 102 yards rushing while backup Chris Johnson added 68 yards on 13 carries.
Since then, the Raiders have been the target of heavy criticism in the media and from fans, many of whom booed the team as it left the field following the loss to Houston in Oakland's home-opener.
Roach doesn't think the negativity is unfair.
"If they're just judging by the record and what they see on film, probably not," Roach said. "We know that in this locker room, we're the ones that will have to change any of those perceptions by what we put out there."
The road doesn't get any easier.
Following the trip to New England, the Raiders depart for London, where they'll play the Miami Dolphins before returning home for the bye week.
NOTES: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hand) was limited in practice and is questionable. ... Tuck, who was sick earlier in the week, practiced and is probable. ... Cornerbacks Carlos Rogers (knee) and Chimdi Chekwa (knee) were also limited and questionable. ... Tackle Matt McCants (knee) is questionable.