Not many NFL players have to wait until Week 10 to make their first NFL start as a second round rookie draft pick. However Menelik Watson, a talented linemen out of England by way of Florida State is not a typical NFL player in the first place. The rookie didn’t go the typical route of a Pop Warner to Varsity to NCAA to the NFL route, instead picking up the game late and taking the draft by storm after starring for the Seminoles. Showing very nimble footwork in addition to having the standard body of an NFL linemen, Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie had one of the true sleepers of the draft when he picked Watson in the second round.
Yet injuries to his calf kept him out during the preseason until the final week, and then before the season even more setbacks kept him out until Week 9 where he was a backup. On Sunday with Matt McCants inactive, Watson got his first start, but it wasn’t pretty.
A motivated Giants pass rush pressured Terrelle Pryor all game, with the already hobbled Pryor struggling with an MCL sprain the lack of protection hamstrung the Raiders offense and was a huge factor in a 24-20 loss. It wasn’t all the fault of the rookie, who did a pretty admirable job lined up against Justin Tuck who was considered one of the best in the game until recently. Still the rookie linemen felt the need to apologize to Raider Nation for his effort, taking to twitter to express that he will be working on getting better.
I promise as long as I wear a Raiders uniform I will never put that performance out there ever again. Let my teammates, fans, n family down!
— Menelik Watson (@MenelikWatson71) November 10, 2013
Watson has had a tough go in his rookie season so far, but has also fought hard to battle through adversity that may have caused other rookies to crumble. Watson has a bright future in Oakland and his improvement is a key to the team’s overall turnaround as their pass rush has made things difficult for offensive coordinator Greg Olson as the lack of time in the pocket has devastated the passing game. It is an encouraging sign to see Watson motivated after a loss and showing the maturity to admit when he has had a bad game and the desire to get better from it.