Facing the New York Giants defensive line is a tough enough task for an offensive line in the best of circumstances. The banged-up Oakland Raiders have to do it this week with backups in three of the five spots.
"It can go two ways. We can go out there and embarrass ourselves or go out there and make a name for ourselves," left tackle Mario Henderson said. "It's a good opportunity for us."
Henderson is one of two starters who will be in his usual spot this week, along with right guard Cooper Carlisle. Starting left guard Robert Gallery is out with a broken bone in his left leg and right tackle Cornell Green is sidelined with a strained calf.
Those injuries will force center Chris Morris to move to left guard, and backup center Samson Satele and backup tackle Erik Pears into the starting lineup.
"It gives those guys an opportunity," Henderson said. "When you come out playing you don't want to just play against average guys. You want to play the best of the best. Why not? It lets you know where you are and where you stand as a player. I think it's good. We just have to do it as a unit."
Henderson got his chance to move back into the starting lineup late last season against New England's Richard Seymour. He more than held his own against the former All-Pro and then did the same the following week against Houston's Mario Williams and in the season finale against Tampa Bay's Gaines Adams, giving him confidence that he carried over into this season.
While Henderson got matched up against some of the top individual players, the newcomers this week will be going against perhaps the league's best overall line. New York's line features Pro Bowlers Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck and includes Mathias Kiwanuka, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield and free agent acquisitions Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, giving the Giants a relentless attack that wears on opponents.
"It's not just their front four, it's everybody on their team. The linebackers are good, and all the backups on the D-line are good. It's a whole team effort," Morris said. "That's how we will measure ourselves, going up against the best. If we can put up a good game like we plan on doing it will be good for us."
The Giants are coming off a five-sack performance against Kansas City last week and are allowing just 115 yards passing per game. A matchup against the league's lowest-ranked offense featuring a rebuilt offensive line must have the Giants' eyes lighting up.
"We try not to," Tuck said, with an emphasis on try. "We're very superstitious as D-linemen. We know, we look at it like everyone's in the NFL for a reason. Even though a guy wasn't starting, he might not have played as much as the next guy, there's something about guys when they have something to prove, they have an opportunity that they might not have had beforehand."
The Raiders have struggled up front this season, especially creating holes in the running game. Oakland is fifth worst in the NFL, averaging 3.5 yards per carry and 88.8 yards per game.
Coach Tom Cable, who was in charge of the team's offensive line the past two seasons, spent more time than usual in practice with his offensive linemen.
"I want to help because the changes that are going on I think needs another set of eyes in there and certainly that's one place I can help, for sure," he said. "We don't have an identity. We have to get that back."
NOTES: The Raiders re-signed RB Gary Russell, who was released in the final roster cut. Russell provides insurance at running back with Darren McFadden out two to four weeks with a knee injury. ... Kick returner Justin Miller was released to make room on the roster. ... TE Zach Miller missed practice after having a concussion last week. He will be re-evaluated each day.