(Photo credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
The Las Vegas Raiders have three quarterbacks on their roster, and any of them could take the field on Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jimmy Garoppolo started and finished the first three games of the season for Las Vegas, but he was placed in concussion protocol following a 23-18 loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said that Garoppolo was still in protocol on Wednesday and did not practice but has been participating in meetings. If he's not cleared in time for Sunday's game, the Raiders (1-2) will likely turn to 37-year-old journeyman Brian Hoyer, who backed up Garoppolo the first three games.
Hoyer has started 40 games in his 15-year NFL career but only three since the 2017 season. He has lost his last 12 starts, previously winning in Week 4 of the 2016 season with the Chicago Bears.
He made his most recent start for the New England Patriots on Oct. 2 in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers but left with a head injury on the game's second series.
Another option for the Raiders is 25-year-old rookie Aidan O'Connell, a fourth-round pick out of Purdue who threw 50 touchdown passes his final two seasons with the Boilermakers.
"We're hard at work prepping how we manage that situation as best we can as it progresses through the week," McDaniels said.
Whomever it is, they'll need to perform better than Garoppolo has so far, throwing five touchdown passes compared to six interceptions, one reason the Raiders are tied for 29th in the NFL in points per game (15.0).
The Chargers (1-2) will try to build off their 28-24 win at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, a victory they nearly gave away after coach Brandon Staley went for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 24-yard line with 1:51 left and clinging to a four-point lead.
The Chargers prevented another agonizing last-minute loss by intercepting a pass in the end zone with under 10 seconds left.
Austin Ekeler, the No. 1 running back for Los Angeles, returned to practice on Wednesday but was limited after missing the past two games with an ankle injury.
Ekeler's return would be especially beneficial to the offense after wide receiver Mike Williams (seven catches, 121 yards and a touchdown at Minnesota) went down with a season-ending torn ACL on Sunday.
"Everyone is going to have to elevate their game, and it's not just the receiving group, it's going to be that tight end group and running back group, as well," Staley said. "We're going to have to work through those adjustments here during the week to get ready for the Raiders."
Allen showed he can pick up the slack, catching a team-record 18 passes from Justin Herbert for 215 yards, even throwing a touchdown pass.
Herbert finished 40-of-47 for a career-high 405 yards and three touchdowns against the Vikings. He is a big reason the Chargers rank second in the NFL in total offense per game (416.7).
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Raiders, they need running back Josh Jacobs to get on track.
Coming off a training camp holdout, he's been limited to 108 yards on 45 carries through the first three games (2.4 yards per carry) and has not yet scored a touchdown.
Jacobs rushed for a league-leading 1,653 yards and scored 12 touchdowns last season, averaging 4.9 yards a carry.
The Chargers have been vulnerable on defense this season, mainly against the pass, ranking 31st in the NFL in total defense (450.7 ypg allowed) and 32nd in passing defense (337.0 ypg allowed).
Los Angeles practiced without three-time Pro Bowl safety Derwin James Jr. on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury, and his status for Sunday is undetermined, Staley said.
--Field Level Media