Filed for print . . .
Never has monotony been more welcome than on the Raiders offensive line.
The Raiders lined up the same five starters at practice Tuesday that they have for every drill, every off-season team session, every training camp practice and every preseason game.
Center Stefen Wisniewski has guard Khalif Barnes and tackle Donald Penn to his left and guard Austin Howard and tackle Menelik Watson to his right.
“I feel like we’re able to make more progress with one group in there than we would be with the moving parts, and that’s been comfortable,’’ line coach Tony Sparano said
Sparano has been primarily a line coach for more than 30 years and never had as many moving parts as he did in 2013. The Raiders had an NFL-high eight different combinations up front and no starter made it through all 16 games.
Two of the combinations started together four times. The longest stretch of consecutive games for any group starting together was three in Weeks 15-17 _ Jared Veldheer at left tackle, Barnes at left guard, Wisniewski at center, Mike Brisiel at right guard and Tony Pashos at right tackle.
Pashos, who was not re-signed by Oakland, was cut by the Washington Redskins at the final cutdown and found himself starting for the Raiders in Week 1.
“I can recall a few times going in where I had a few series at right tackle and didn’t feel as If I was out there with someone I had any continuity with,’’ Watson said. “We’re all going through growing pains together. You’re familiar with the guy next to you, his voice, how he sets, how he sets up in the run game.’’
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said that by the second preseason game a year ago, the Raiders had already made three changes up front, the big one coming when Jared Veldheer tore his left triceps early in training camp and required surgery.
“I think that group is beginning to jell as a unit,’’ coach Dennis Allen said. “I think they’re playing with confidence, and I think it’s going to be a position group that is going to be one of the strengths of the team.’’
In a 27-26 win over the Detroit Lions, there was some concern over hits absorbed by starting quarterback Matt Schaub. According to Olson, one of the hits came because Schaub failed to recognize a blitz.
Sparano said the Lions also fooled the Raiders with a twist, a maneuver they picked up and blocked effectively during the same drive.
The Raiders have shown some strength up the middle through two preseason games and against the Cowboys during joint workouts in Oxnard. The addition of Howard, who started at right tackle for the New York Jets but was moved inside for the Raiders, has paid dividends so far, Sparano said.
Sparano was the offensive coordinator of the Jets in 2012, and helped sell the Raiders on signing him as a guard.
“When I was in Dallas, I made a transition with Leonard Davis from tackle to guard,’’ Sparano said. “He was a power guy that was a good athlete and he wound up making a few Pro Bowls doing that. Austin has great power, and he’s a good athlete who can really bend and sink.’’
– An MRI showed no structural damage to the right foot of fullback Marcel Reece, Allen said. Reece was limited in practice and his condition will be monitored daily.
– No decision has been made with regard to putting cornerback DJ Hayden (foot) on the regular-season physically unable to perform list, Allen said. Given Hayden has been out all training camp and the depth at the position, it’s unlikely he would be carried on the 53-man roster without a miraculous recovery over the next several days.
If played on regular season PUP, Hayden wouldn’t count toward the roster and would miss a minimum of six games.
– Wide receiver Juron Criner (hip) returned to practice. Quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Brice Butler are far enough along in the concussion protocol to take the field, but have not been cleared to play against Green Bay. Offensive tackle Matt McCants and defensive tackle Justin Ellis, also concussion victims, have not yet passed the first stage.