Why Menelik Watson Has Everything to Prove in Oakland Raiders Training Camp

The top of the Oakland Raiders' 2013 draft class stands on shaky ground heading into the 2015 NFL season.

Most eyeballs will be fixated on cornerback D.J. Hayden (No. 12 overall), but offensive tackle Menelik Watson (No. 42 overall) should also garner moderate expectations. Watson was unable to sustain momentum in his second year after an injury-riddled rookie campaign.

Watson played 12 games and started nine in 2014, alternating with offensive tackle Khalif Barnes on the right side of the offensive line:

Watson must address two problems during the offseason: hand placement and footwork. Defensive ends were able to get around him on the edge too easily, based on the 21 hurries he allowed last season, per Pro Football Focus. His footwork could be the culprit for this particular shortcoming.

He accumulated six penalties, although two were overturned. This may indicate issues with hand placement, which NFL.com’s Mike Mayock pointed out prior to the 2013 draft:

Hand placement is poor. Often hits outside of the frame, and will have a tendency to get overly grabby. Will result in more penalties in the NFL. Needs to play with a wider base. Inconsistent with his footwork.

The fact that Watson’s hand- and footwork were questionable coming into the league, combined with his limited experience, led to trouble in the absence of reps. Watson sat on the bench for a majority of his rookie year with a calf injury. Foot and ankle ailments shortened his 2014 season.

ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson provided some refreshing information about Watson’s progress. He leads the competition over Austin Howard at right tackle. The former second-rounder is showing progress in technical skills. Typically, footwork and hand placement are the focus points for offensive linemen during minicamp and organized team activities when practicing without...

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