NAPA — The Raiders’ battle at right tackle won’t be decided today, tomorrow and maybe not in two weeks.
Menelik Watson and Austin Howard have picked back up where they left off last season, each fighting on the fields beyond the Napa Valley Marriott for the right to start the Sept. 11 opener. If last year taught us anything, it may simply be the man still standing at the end of camp that wins the job.
Watson was in line to be the starter entering the third preseason game in 2015 before he ruptured his Achilles. Howard, the team’s starting right guard in 2014, took over in Watson’s absence and held the job until a knee injury cost him the final three games.
Howard has slowly worked himself back this offseason from that knee surgery, plus another shoulder injury. Watson’s been ready to go since organized team activities in May as he hopes to put his injury-plagued past in the rear view.
“It’s going well,” Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice said of the battle. “We want to make sure that both guys are getting equal work.
“It’s going to come down to the wire and the guy that doesn’t win the job is going to have to swing for us.”
Watson continues to be a bit of a mystery since being selected in the second round of the 2013 draft. His NFL bio includes a laundry list of injuries. Knee surgery cost him the first seven games of his rookie season, then he missed the final four in 2014 with a foot/ankle ailment before the ruptured Achilles last year.
Tice hopes improved work with Raiders strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes keeps Watson available.
“We’re just hopeful he can sustain what he’s started out in camp, which is playing at a high level and performing and getting his reps,” Tice said.