As I’m certain you’ve heard by now, Dennis Allen announced that the Raiders will be without Jared Veldheer for much of this season — Allen did leave the door open for Veldheer’s return, noting they would place him on the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list. I’m not sure how likely a return is, however, as the 49ers’ outside linebacker, Parys Haralson, suffered a similar injury in training camp last year and was lost for the entirety of the season.
Adam Schefter has tweeted that Veldheer’s injury is only a partial tear and that the Raiders expect him to be available for “much of the season.”
But, until Veldheer’s return, Alex Barron will be the next man up. A former first round pick who is widely considered a “bust,” Barron is not the same player that struggled with the St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys, according to offensive coordinator Greg Olsen, that is.
“He’s a totally different guy and a totally different player,” Olsen told Vic Tafur. “He is way more mature. Before, he had a bad work ethic and wasn’t physical.”
As I noted last week, Barron needs to be an entirely different player should the Raiders expect to get any sort of positive contribution from him. In his last 32 games, Barron accumulated 15 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, 48 hurries, and 28 penalties. In contrast, over the past two season, Veldheer allowed nine sacks, six quarterback hits, and a whooping 53 hurries, while accruing 17 penalties.
Those numbers are — surprisingly — not as disparate as I had anticipated. Still, the loss of Veldheer surely spells chaos along the offensive line. But chaos need not signify the end of days. With Tony Sparano leading the unit, I think there’s more reason to be optimistic than the converse.
At practice today, the starters along the offensive line were (from LT to RT) Alex Barron, Lucas Nix, Stefen Wisniewski, Andre Gurode, and Khalif Barnes. Behind them: Willie Smith, Tony Bergstrom, Jason Foster, Lamar Mady, and John Wetzel (Alex Parsons practiced with the third-team, for some reason). The team wasn’t in pads today, so there aren’t any conclusions to be drawn from how well this unit played together.
In total, the offense looked much crisper than it did on Monday (the last practice I observed) — though it didn’t start that way.
Matt Flynn started 11-on-11s by going 1-for-7 with an interception by Mike Jenkins that probably would have been returned for a touchdown. Aside from a drop and a 3-yard completion to Marcel Reece, who was well covered, Flynn looked pedestrian at best. But following a brief intermission, he returned with a vengeance, completing nine of his next 10 passes. Three of which demonstrated an arm strength I hadn’t previous seen. He made two deep sideline throws — one to David Ausberry and another to Tray Session — and deep pass down the seam to Rod Streater who was covered tightly. Flynn ended the practice completing 10-of-17 passes with two interceptions.
Terrelle Pryor played just as well, completing 10-of-11. His one incompletion came on a prayer thrown to Conner Vernon some 30 yards down field. Pryor really seemed to throw the ball well, connecting with Greg Jenkins despite tight coverage from Chimdi Chekwa and had a 20-plus yard completion to Brice Butler. Pryor didn’t have a turnover on the day, but he and Deonte Williams did botch a hand-off.
If there is a quarterback controversy, it doesn’t exist at Raiders training camp. Flynn is clearly entrenched as the starter and proved to be able to bounce back after a rough start. Pryor has been playing admirably, in my opinion, but I’d imagine Allen considers the risk of playing Pryor much greater than the prospective reward.
— We’ll know more after Friday’s game and when Mike Brisiel returns from a sore knee, but I would be surprised if Andre Gurode hasn’t seriously challenged Brisiel for the starting right guard position.
— The most impressive back at practice: Rashad Jennings. He looks fast and decisive.
— With Juron Criner out, Brice Butler is the third receiver in three-wide sets. He was targeted three times in practice today — the most of any receiver not named Rod Streater.
— Jeron Mastrud appears to be in the starting mix at tight end. He practiced extensively with the first team today. With the loss of Veldheer, Mastrud’s blocking ability became all the more attractive to Raiders’ brass.
— D.J. Hayden practiced with the first team in Tracy Porter’s absence. He’s set to be cleared for contact on Friday, but won’t play until Week 3 of the preseason. We’ll resume speculation about his position with the first team then.
— Lamarr Houston practiced today after missing significant time with an undisclosed injury. Allen was not sure about his status for Friday night’s game.