Menelik Watson, the Oakland Raiders’ interim-left tackle, “tweaked” his knee at Wednesday’s practice, according to Dennis Allen. Though “starter” was Allen’s descriptive word of choice when discussing Watson earlier this week, the more appropriate adjective might be “oft-injured.” Watson missed nearly all of training camp with a calf injury, but rebounded nicely in his first ever action at left tackle. In 17 pass snaps in the preseason finale, Watson did not allow a single pressure.
Watson’s injury is significant for a team that lost (arguably) their best offensive lineman, Jared Veldheer, for at least the first-half of the season. Veldheer’s initial replacement, Alex Barron, floundered, allowing 10 total pressures on 84 pass snaps while also accruing three penalties. Barron’s preseason was so disastrous that ProFootball Focus (PFF) graded him out as the worst player in football — all offensive, defensive, and special teams players included. That’s certainly something.
A question mark at left tackle, Watson was to be relied on to, at the very least, be better than Barron. In so doing, Barron would anchor an offensive line that was otherwise adrift, thereby buoying the entire offensive unit. Were Watson’s tweaked knee to keep him out for an extended period, the Raiders would again need to tweak their offensive line.
This time, however, the Raiders don’t have any high draft picks to fall back on. Instead, they’ll look to newly signed Tony Pashos. A nine year veteran with over 70 starts, Pashos was among the Cleveland Browns final cuts. Strangely, neither his experience, nor his +7.9 preseason grade from PFF — the highest of any Browns’ player — was enough to warrant a roster spot. But it looks like the Browns’ embarrassment of riches could be the Raiders’ saving grace.
In five more snaps than Barron this preseason, Pashos allowed five fewer pressures, while also not drawing a single penalty. This alone makes his addition a victory by the front office. His preseason performance aside, though Pashos didn’t register a snap last season, his career statistics suggest he could be an upgrade at right tackle — where Allen suggested Pashos would start on Sunday, if needed.
Obviously, 2008 was a forgetful year for Pashos, but that one can be written off because he played for perpetually inept Jacksonville Jaguars. Other than that season, Pashos has been every bit the tackle that Khalif Barnes has been, if not better in most cases. Even if Watson’s injury doesn’t prove to cost him much time, I wonder how long before Pashos pushes Barnes inside to right guard. Of course, if this were to happen, then the Raiders would probably need to find another swing tackle. I hear Jason Smith is available, if the team hasn’t soured on former first round picks of the St. Louis Rams.