Tyvon Branch is clearly the Oakland Raiders best defensive back, and the strong safety is also a key leader and easily one of the Raiders best players on the defense overall. So when Branch went down with a major fibula/ankle injury early in the regular season, it immediately set off alarms throughout the Raiders defense. His return would greatly help the Raiders, and Branch was able to get back to the practice field on Thursday. What has made Branch’s absence even worse is the fact that the Raiders have little depth at safety, and I think that’s a big reason why the Raiders have avoided placing Branch on the injured reserve despite the nature of his injury and the fact that the Raiders playoff hopes have essentially been squashed.
There was some hope that Tyvon Branch would be able to make his return for tomorrow’s game against the New York Jets, but the Contra Costa Times’s Steve Corkran reports that Branch will not be able to play against the Jets tomorrow. Honestly, it would have been a mistake for the Raiders to bring Branch back into the fold this week, since he hasn’t had enough time to practice after returning from a major injury.
In fact, I think the Raiders just need to shelve Branch on the injured reserve, because he is one of their best players and they need to have his future health in mind. The injury he suffered was nothing to be taken lightly, since he has been out since Week 2. The Raiders aren’t competing for anything meaningful this year, and they need to rest up Branch and make sure he is 100% for next year. They probably should have placed Branch on the I.R. sooner, but it’s never too late to make the right decision now.