Raiders contemplate how to turn season around

Updated: October 10, 2003, 9:46 AM ET
ESPN

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Charles Woodson believes the Oakland Raiders can still salvage their season, but the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback suggests change had better come quickly for the defending AFC champions.

Coming off of last week's 24-21 loss to the previously winless Chicago Bears, Oakland is entering dangerous territory heading into Sunday's game at Cleveland. Only three teams in the AFC have worse records than the Raiders' 2-3 mark, and while a loss to the Browns wouldn't necessarily end Oakland's playoff hopes, it would be a major blow.

Woodson, whose two interceptions against the Bears went for naught after the Raiders blew a 15-point halftime lead, said Oakland's problems can be cured quickly with a win over Cleveland.

"It's still early," Woodson said. "We're not too far out of things where we could just walk around here hanging our heads. We're still in it. We just need to go on a streak, build that confidence up that we know we have."

Oakland's defense -- or lack thereof -- has been a prime factor in the team's struggles through the season's first five weeks. The Raiders are 31st of 32 teams in overall defense and their 163.4 rushing yards allowed per game ranks them 30th in that category.

Oakland has been gouged for 200 yards or more on the ground in its last two games and has held just one opponent -- Tennessee, in the season-opener -- to under 100 yards rushing.

It hasn't helped that Oakland's defense has been hit hard by injuries. Both starting defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield (ankle) and John Parrella (groin) are listed as questionable against Cleveland. Parrella's injury is apparently more serious than that affecting Stubblefield, who has taken to wearing a protective boot on his left foot when not practicing.

Linebacker Bill Romanowski still hasn't returned since suffering the latest in a string of concussions three weeks ago. Free safety Rod Woodson had surgery on his right knee the second week in September and still hasn't fully recovered. And strong safety Derrick Gibson suddenly appeared on the injury list this week with a bad shoulder.

Injuries aside, the Raiders have let opposing teams score 20 or more points in each of the season's first five games for the first time since 1970.

"The coaches can call whatever, but if we go out there and this guy's trying to do too much here and that guy's trying to do too much there, it's going to leave a void somewhere," Charles Woodson said. "It's not about the scheme. It's about guys going out there and playing within the defense and getting it done."

Defensive end Trace Armstrong said Oakland must change soon.

"You have a bunch of guys who made up their mind that it will turn around," said Armstrong. "It's all going to start for us Sunday in Cleveland. We've got to find a way to get a win, to get to .500. Once we do that, we'll go from there."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index