Raiders coach Dennis Allen doesn’t have to be told there’s work to be done when it comes to his offensive line. The New Orleans Saints drove home that point by running around, past and over the Raiders time and again.
Allen said he isn’t sure what the solution is, other than to keep working with the players he has on his roster and keep an eye out for anyone that might provide an upgrade.
“We always have to look at what options are out there,” Allen said in a conference call Saturday night. “Anthony Munoz, he’s not out there right now.”
Munoz, of course, enjoyed a stellar career that culminated with his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jammal Brown, Jared Gaither, Winston Justice and Sean Locklear are veteran options that remain on the free-agent market.
Things were unsettled for the Raiders offensive line from the outset of training camp. A torn triceps suffered by left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer – he is expected to miss three months or so – exacerbated the problem.
Allen and offensive line coach Tony Sparano tried Alex Barron at Veldheer’s spot against the Saints. Suffice, Barron has a ways to go before he gets the nod.
It wasn’t just Barron that struggled against the Saints. Allen said he takes a measure of solace knowing many of the mistakes made are correctable.
“The more looks that we can see, the better that we’re going to be prepared for those things when it comes to the regular season,” Allen said, in reference to the Saints blitzing and rushing from several angles. “Obviously, they brought a lot of pressure, and we’ve got to do a better job in the passing game of being able to execute when we do have pressure.”
Perhaps just as vexing for Allen is the lack of pressure generated by the Raiders defensive line.
“It’s a concern,” Allen said. “We’ve had two games where we really haven’t been able to get after the passer, specifically with four people. So, that’s something that we got to continue to look at.”
The Raiders played their first two exhibition games without starting tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker.
Even so, the Raiders got in the fact of Saints quarterback Drew Brees on only one pass play regardless who they lined up Friday night.
— First-round draft pick D.J. Hayden has been cleared for contact, Allen said. Therefore, Hayden will be on the field Sunday and without any limitations for the first time since he almost died as a result of a ruptured vein last November,
“He’s anxious and excited about getting an opportunity to play this week,” Allen said.
Hayden practiced some the first three weeks of camp. However, he wore a red, non-contact jersey.
— Tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) likely won’t be back until the regular-season opener, Allen said. Ausberry suffered an injury in the first half at the end of a reception.
“Nobody has really separated themselves in that race,” Allen said of his tight ends. “We’re going to continue to watch them as we go through the rest of the preseason and see if anybody takes the lead.”
— Cornerback Tracy Porter (groin) is “doubtful” for this week, Allen said. Defensive tackle Brandon Bair (hamstring), linebacker Kevin Burnett (knee) and kicker Eddy Carmona (head) are day-to-day. Offensive lineman John Wetzel also hurt a knee. He likely will miss a “couple of weeks.”
Allen said Walker has the best shot of returning to practice within the next week among a trio that includes Sims and offensive lineman Menelik Watson. All three have missed most or all of camp.
He also said that receiver Juron Criner is “a little bit closer” to returning than fellow receiver Jacoby Ford.
— Rookie Brice Butler got some playing time against the Saints as a slot wide receiver. It sounds as if he can expect more time at the demanding position in the coming weeks.
“I did like some of the things I saw from him,” Allen said. “Also I want to see a little more of the consistency and not have some of those rookie mistakes.”