By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 at 4:48 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Filed for print with additional material . . .
The ascension of Menelik Watson to starting left tackle of the Raiders is part desperation and part necessity.
A second-round draft pick out of Florida State, Watson will get what offensive coordinator Greg Olson called a “baptism by fire’’ in the loudest road environment in the NFL when the Raiders visit the Seattle Seahawks Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.
Watson, who played at Saddleback College with Kyle Long, the son of Raider Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long, has been a at the facility before when it was much quieter.
“I spoke to Howie Long and he was telling me about it,’’ Watson said. “It’s a loud venue. I got to see it coming out of junior college on my visit to Washington. It should be interesting.’’
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Watson, along with quarterback Terrelle Pryor and cornerback D.J. Hayden, will remain in the preseason finale with the second team after most of the starters have departed.
“He hasn’t taken a snap in a game situation and he needs all the work he can get,’’ Allen said.
Watson was considered a raw prospect coming out of the draft because he played only 19 games of football at Saddleback and Florida State, all as a right tackle. He was late to football, originally playing college basketball at Marist College.
A calf injury kept Watson out of all of training camp except for a few drills, during which time he aggravated the injury. He finally got on the field for team sessions last Wednesday.
With Jared Veldheer out following left triceps surgery and veteran Alex Barron getting starts against New Orleans and Chicago, the Seattle game provides the only opportunity to see what Watson can do heading into the regular season opener Sept. 8 at Indianapolis.
“The question is whether or not time is on your side in getting a good evaluation, and the only way we’re going to get that evaluation is to let him play,’’ line coach Tony Sparano said.
Watson has so little experience that Sparano believes the problems associated with a switch from right tackle to left tackle are minimized “because he doesn’t have a history . . his bad habits are easy to break.’’
Having grown up in Manchester, England, as a soccer player before gravitating to basketball and then even dabbling in boxing before being talked into playing football, Watson has uncommon footwork for someone who is 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds.
Because of what Sparano calls “left tackle qualities’’ related to Watson’s athleticism, the Raiders were discussed in the offseason giving him some time on the left side to be a swing tackle who could play on the left side if Veldheer went down and compete to start on the right side.
The process has been accelerated because of Watson’s extended absence and Veldheer’s injury.
“It’s very technical, and things happen a lot quicker on the left,’’ Watson said. “Obviously, it’s the blind side, so you have to be double about your wits.’’
– The Raiders signed Justin Medlock to kick against Seattle and allow Sebastian Janikowski to rest a right calf strain and be ready for the opener on Sept. 8.
Medlock, who played at Mission San Jose High in Fremont and at UCLA, played in 10 days for Carolina last season and was 8-for-12 on field goal attempts. Medlock was a fifth-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007 and has played in the Canadian Football League for Toronto and Hamilton.
“I’ve always said I always wanted to play for a Bay Area team,” Medlock said. “I’ve always been a big Bay Area fan so playing for the Raiders or Niners would be awesome. I’ve always wanted top lay for one of these teams.”
– Four players were removed from the roster to reach the NFL limit of 75. Linebacker Miles Burris was placed on the physically unable to perform list and will be out for at least the first six games of the season.
“Miles is doing a lot better now but we want to see how he continues to get better before we go ahead and activate him,” Allen said. “You only get 53 spots and you have to make sure that you’re making the right decisions. Sometimes those are tough things when you have injured players.
Cornerback Joselio Hanson (groin) and running back Latavius Murray (ankle) were placed on the injured reserve list, meaning neither can play for the Raiders this season. Cornerback Mitchell White was waived.
Hanson had an interception in the Raiders 36-24 preseason loss to Chicago, but came out of the game with an injured and Allen said an MRI determined it to be a “significant’’ groin injury.
Murray, slow to recover from recent arthroscopic surgery on his ankle, remains property of the Raiders and can make another run at the roster starting next off-season. He was a fifth-round draft pick out of Central Florida who had eight carries for 29 yards in the preseason opener against Dallas but didn’t play against New Orleans or Chicago.
He had been expected to compete for the role as Darren McFadden’s backup.
“Right now we have Rashad Jennings and Jeremy Stewart,” Allen said. “Both those guys have done a pretty good job this preseason. It’ll be another opportunity for them on Thursday to go out and prove their worth and we’ll get another evaluation on them.
– Wide receiver Rod Streater has passed all the league-mandated concussion tests, was cleared to practice, and Allen expects him to face Seattle.
– Linebacker Sio Moore has a toe injury which has limited his practice time the past two days, Allen said.
– Sparano said the switch of Lucas Nix to right guard with Tony Bergstrom at left guard was because “the right side’s a little thicker position, a little stronger position, the left side a little more athletic. That’s kind of why we did that. But we’ll see what happens when we get down to Indianapolis.”
– Olson addressing the struggles of Matt Flynn against Chicago: “Some of it’s bad luck. He has a protection error that’s not on Matt Flynn at all where a free hitter comes that’s not Matt Flynn’s error. We have an illegal formation that’s not Matt Flynn’s error that takes away a pass there, so when you get started in a game like that, confidence has to do with it. Maybe his confidence got rattled a little bit early on. A number of factors could have come. But, he has played better, he will play better, we expect him to play better, and he expects it out of himself.”
– Perhaps believing he sounded a bit harsh during his last press session when discussing the maturity level of wide receiver Denarius Moore, Olson wanted to set the record straight before being asked a question.
“(Moore) is doing the things we have asked him to do . . . I have been pleased with Denarius Moore and the way he has approached our training camp and he’ll continue to get better.”