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ALAMEDA, Calif. — Does Todd Downing have only one game remaining as the Oakland Raiders’ offensive coordinator?

Coach Jack Del Rio on Wednesday came close to giving Downing, who was elevated from quarterbacks coach last offseason to replace the departed Bill Musgrave, a vote of confidence. Though, it could also be seen as a parting gift.
“Obviously, a lot of things have gone in a negative direction,” Del Rio said. “But I do know the guy is super bright. He’s going to be a real good coach in this league and I believe in him. So those are not things that people want to hear right now because the reality is we’ve underperformed offensively this year and so there’s going to be, naturally, there are going to be these kinds of questions and I think we all understand it. I understand it, he understands it.
“But it doesn’t change my belief. It’s what I know. But there have been a tough set of circumstances and things have not gone real smooth. And it’s not what we’re looking for. But this is really about the Chargers. … We can get into season-ending talk when it’s appropriate next week.”

Under Downing, the Raiders have regressed from the No. 6 total offense in the NFL in 2016 — they averaged 373.3 yards per game and scored 416 points, the seventh most in the league — to the No. 19 total offense, averaging 323.3 yards per game and scoring 291 points, 23rd most in the NFL.

Derek Carr's regression under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing has been a primary concern for the Raiders this season.

Derek Carr’s regression under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing has been a primary concern for the Raiders this season.

Perhaps most glaring has been the regression of quarterback Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension this past summer after finishing tied for third in NFL MVP voting.

But many observers have claimed Downing’s offense and route trees for receivers became too simplistic and the addition of running back Marshawn Lynch and stretch-zone runs negatively affected the once-dominant offensive line.

And the Raiders fell from a 12-4 record last season to a 6-9 mark heading into this Sunday’s finale at the Los Angeles Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

Turnover differential is a major reason as well. Oakland tied for the league lead last season at plus-16, but it enters Week 17 29th in the NFL at minus-12.

“Basic execution,” Del Rio said, “is the difference between being happy and not.”
Del Rio essentially chose the potential of Downing, 37, over the résumé of Musgrave, and Downing said after his hiring that any changes to the offense would be “subtle” going forward.

“We’re going to keep the same system terminology,” he said at the time. “There’s no reason to change any of that stuff. All we’re doing right now is finding the ways that we can all individually do our jobs better, prepare our positions better and how we can just quarter-turn a couple things to make the offense as efficient as possible.”

Downing was also asked if he considered himself an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it type of coach.

“Yeah, I definitely think that that’s a phrase you can tag to me,” he said. “I believe … in efficiency. And if we’re efficient in a concept, I am not going to go changing it just for change sake. If we’re inefficient or we failed to live up to expectations in a certain concept, then I am going to figure out a way to tinker with it and make it work. If I can’t make it work, we simply won’t do it anymore.”

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Adrian Peterson’s status for the rest of this season is in jeopardy.

Arizona Cardinals’ coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday he wasn’t sure if the running back will return from the neck injury that he suffered on Nov. 26 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I have no idea,” Arians said when asked if Peterson will play again this season.

Arians added that there hasn’t been any progress on Peterson’s injury. Peterson missed his seventh straight practice on Wednesday. He didn’t play in Arizona’s past two games. And he is unlikely to play Sunday at the Washington Redskins.

Adrian Peterson has rushed for 529 yards with two touchdowns this season.

Adrian Peterson has rushed for 529 yards with two touchdowns this season.

Peterson has a history of returning from injuries in expedient fashion.

Most notably, he returned from a torn ACL suffered late in the 2011 season to rush for 2,097 yards and win the NFL MVP award in 2012.

He missed 11 games last season with a torn meniscus and also sat out games in 2013, 2011, 2010 and 2007 with injuries.

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FRISCO, Texas — Ezekiel Elliott’s decision to forego any further appeals and serve the six-game suspension provides the Dallas Cowboys some closure, but little else.

Instead of hoping against hope that he could win his Dec. 1 hearing for a preliminary injunction and see him return before they play Dec. 10 against the New York Giants, the Cowboys know the next time they will see him at The Star will be Dec. 18 and the next time he can be on the field will be Dec. 24.

With how this has played out at the end, there has to be some wondering inside the Cowboys’ organization if Elliott should have just taken the suspension at the start of the season. However, Elliott was doing his best to keep from being labeled an abuser. At the end, the debate was not about whether Elliott struck a former girlfriend on multiple occasions. It was about Roger Goodell’s power as commissioner to impose discipline.
Legally, Elliott was never charged by the Columbus, Ohio, authorities, but the NFL put the label on him through its personal conduct policy with a 13-month investigation in which their lead investigator did not believe Elliott should be disciplined.

Since the NFL announced the suspension on Aug. 11, the Cowboys have known that at some point — either at the start of the season, middle of the season, end of the season or even next season — their lead running back would miss time.

Their first attempt to show that life without Elliott would work, failed — a 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last week. Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden combined to run for 65 yards on 15 carries, or roughly what Elliott picked up in a quarter and a half of action, on average, in his past four games.

Without Ezekiel Elliott, it's up to the Cowboys coaches to put together a game plan that suits the strengths of Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden.

Without Ezekiel Elliott, it’s up to the Cowboys coaches to put together a game plan that suits the strengths of Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden.

The Cowboys actually missed All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith and All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee more against Atlanta than they did their All-Pro running back.

While “next man up,” is a terrific philosophy, it is up to the Cowboys coaches to do more than just run the same stuff without Elliott and Tyron Smith on offense. Expecting Morris, Rod Smith and McFadden to be able to do what Elliott did, does not make sense. Expecting Chaz Green and Byron Bell to block like Tyron Smith, does not make sense.
Jason Garrett often tells his players to control what they can control. He repeated that message to Elliott throughout the running back’s legal odyssey. It’s up to the coaches to control what they can control, and that is putting together a plan that better fits the strengths of Morris, Rod Smith and McFadden and not so much what Elliott did best.

The Cowboys now know they will not have Elliott until the day before Christmas.

To make sure the final two games of the season matter, the coaches have to find a way to better adjust to life without Elliott.

The goal is to be at 7-7 or 8-6 by the time Elliott returns. That should keep the Cowboys in the wild-card chase.

And then the hope would be a rested, fresh and likely motivated Elliott can carry them in the final two games.