Raiders prepare for life without Branch

ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders losing strong safety Tyvon Branch for an indefinite time with a reported broken right fibula would be a blow to the team under normal circumstances.

But to lose Branch the week before facing the pass-happy Denver Broncos and Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Peyton Manning on the national stage of "Monday Night Football?"

“Man, that hurts,” safety Usama Young said Monday. “Hurts the team. [Losing] a guy like that in the locker room, on the field, in meeting rooms, it’s a devastation.”

Added free safety Charles Woodson: “We’re going to be missing a good player. It’s unfortunate that it goes down like that, and it just means that somebody is going to have to step up.”

Sunday, in the Raiders’ 19-9 defeat of Jacksonville, Young and Brandian Ross performed admirably after Branch was lost midway through the first quarter. He was injured blitzing Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne.

And the way Raiders coach Dennis Allen sees it, while there might be calls to move Woodson to strong safety and start Young at free, the Raiders’ safety positions are “interchangeable” anyway.

“I think I’ve got confidence in all three of those guys that are back there,” Allen said, referring to Woodson, Young and Ross.

Besides, the Raiders figure to be in nickel packages most of the game against the pass-first, ask-questions-later Broncos.

“Yeah, we’ll be in nickel a lot, but I believe we have smart players and guys that can go in and know what’s expected of them, know what to do,” Woodson said. “So we won’t have to, our game plan, we won’t have to alter it all with the guys that go in.

“We look forward to going down there with our full arsenal of plays and just have to stick different guys in there to implement it. So we feel comfortable with that.”

Against the Jaguars, Woodson led the Raiders with six tackles, including the defensive play of the game, when he leapt over a pile to bring running back Maurice Jones-Drew down inside the 5-yard line.

Ross added three tackles with a sack and a quarterback hurry while Young had three tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hurries.

Henne, though, is no Manning.

“The one thing that’s crazy against Peyton is he’s seen it all,” Young said. “Dude is real. (There’s) not too many ways you’re going to be able to surprise him, or confuse him. Just showing as many looks and blitzing him, pressuring him and whatever we do, we’re going to try to mix it up.”

Just without Branch.