The Oakland Raiders have a lot of work to do.
Despite not completely having their obvious starting quarterback situation figured out, there is another problem that the team is facing heading into the 2013-2014 NFL season: the offensive line.
The Raiders’ offensive line took a big hit this preseason when left tackle Jared Veldheer tore his triceps in his left arm. Veldheer is expected to miss a significant portion of the upcoming season and his decision to get surgery was heartbreaking, but the right move.
“It’s a disappointment for all of us,” coach Dennis Allen said. “But again we’re going to play 16 games this year. The teams that are able to push through those things mentally, those are the teams that have success. Everybody has injuries. That’s one we’ll just have to deal with.”
The 69th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft started every game for the Raiders last season and has started a total of 43 games over the span of his three-year career with Oakland.
To make matters worse, Alex Barron, the 30-year-old left tackle who hadn’t started an NFL game since 2010, did not play up to par with the expectations that the Raiders had set for him. And that has led Oakland to their next best option, rookie lineman Menelik Watson.
Watson is a former basketball player that played in 19 football games at Florida State before being drafted by the Raiders in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The only problem is that Watson played all of those football games at right tackle, not left.
But Watson’s head coach is fully aware of the risk he is taking.
“Obviously that’s something you’ve got to consider,” Allen said this week, per the San Francisco Chronicle. “But again, when you look at where we took this guy and you look at the roster and you look at his potential, I feel like that’s the right thing to do. Put him over there and see how he does in the game. We won’t know until we put him in a game and get a chance to evaluate him. We haven’t had that opportunity yet.”
It’s unfortunate to see the see the Raiders go through a problem like this in the wake of new hope. New offensive coordinator Greg Olson will be implementing the power blocking system that star running back Darren McFadden has thrived in, but it is uncertain how effective he can be without a legitimate offensive line.
Also, these struggles might be one of the critical factors that help Allen make his final decision on the team’s starting quarterback. Terrelle Pryor has proven time and time again he can buy extra time using his feet and is as mobile of a quarterback as they come. If the offensive line collapses and the Raiders need their quarterback to make a big play, I would much rather have Pryor as the signal caller than the less-effective Flynn. Pryor has also outplayed Flynn in the opportunities that he has been given recently, but that is a whole other story.
The bottom line is that the Raiders need help on the offensive line, but maybe not as badly as most people think. Last season, according to NFL.com, the Raiders allowed the fourth-least quarterback hits (63), and the fifth-least quarterback sacks (27). Maybe those stats will provide a glimmer of hope for the Raider Nation.
A good offensive line is a necessity for a successful football program, and the Raiders must get some productivity from key guys if they want to win ball games this season.