What Is the Oakland Raiders’ Plan for Menelik Watson?

The Oakland Raiders have put an emphasis on improving their offensive line through free agency. After losing left tackle Jared Veldheer to the Arizona Cardinals, the Raiders have signed offensive linemen Austin Howard, Kevin Boothe and Donald Penn.

The Raiders also voided the deal for Rodger Saffold, a player some had penciled in at guard even though the monetary commitment indicated otherwise.

With the signing of tackles Penn and Howard, the plan for last year’s second-round pick Menelik Watson is unclear. Watson will have to win a job outright by beating out players the Raiders are paying to be starters.

Watson’s performance will also be something used to evaluate Reggie McKenzie’s job performance. For a general manager who wants to build through the draft, having a second-round pick without a clear path to a starting job headed into his second year is a bad sign.

It’s true that much of Watson’s rookie season was lost due to injury. Watson missed most of training camp and played in just five games, with a single start at right tackle in a loss against the New York Giants.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that all the missed time hurt Watson’s development. He was a raw prospect having played football for only a few years before the Raiders drafted him.

Watson played 57 snaps in a relief role against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9. Matt McCants had played well in place of right tackle Tony Pashos and started ahead of Watson before getting hurt.

In his first action of the season, Watson’s performance was a mixed bag. He had a few nice blocks but also made a few major errors. The Raiders had no choice but to start Watson against the Giants in Week 10 because both McCants and Pashos were out.

After his performance against New York, Watson became the team’s sixth offensive lineman in heavy sets. He ...

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