December 15, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen high-fives offensive tackle Menelik Watson (71) against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Stars aligning for Menelik Watson to takeover LT job

To say this offseason has been a roller coaster for the Oakland Raiders is an understatement. Reggie McKenzie has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism and mild praise from journalists and insiders around the NFL world. While McKenzie has done a great job of increasing the talent on both the offense and defense, there are still questions about who will man ‘the blindside’ for Oakland Raiders.

With all the top end tackles seemingly flying off the shelves in the first week of free agency, the Raiders are still left searching for a starting LT. The only viable option still left in free agency is former Tampa Bay Tackle Donald Penn, who has played well over his career but is on the backside of his career and has been steadily declining over the last couple years. Penn has been reported to be expecting to be highly paid like the rest of the top tackles in free agency. Unless Penn’s agent lowers his price I do not see McKenzie overpaying for a declining Tackle. Not landing Penn opens the door for youngster Menelik Watson to be the starting LT next season.

Menelik Watson was the team’s 2nd round draft pick in 2013 and is a freak 6′ 5″ 315 lbs athlete out of Florida State. Last year was only about his third full season playing football, as he grew up in England and mainly played soccer and basketball growing up. I believe it was McKenzie’s plan all along to draft Watson to eventually be groomed into the LT. With O-Line guru Tony Sparano headlining his development there is no reason Watson cannot become a top 15 tackle next season.

Watson was sidelined for most of last season with a lingering calf injury,  and when he came back he struggled in his first start against the New York Giants allowing one QB sack and three QB hurries. After the game with the Giants he did not allow another QB hurry or sack in two more starts against the Texans and Chiefs, according to . While this is a very small sample size it’s clear to see why many officials in Oakland had high hopes when they drafted him in the 2nd round.

The Raiders could not have a better O-line coach to mentor this young and talented player. Tony Sparano has proved many times to be one of the better O-line coaches in the NFL. Sparano did not have much to work with last season in terms of talent and had to work around having a non-traditional  QB for over half the season. This season I expect the O-line to look much improved and Watson could be the cornerstone for the Raiders line.

Watson’s development at LT will allow the Raiders to be more flexible in the draft and not be locked into drafting a top LT at 5. This allows the Raiders to either go and draft their franchise QB or add another talented player to the defense. McKenzie drafted Watson in the 2nd rd last season for a reason and it was ultimately to develop him into a LT. Reggie may not have thought he would be playing Watson at LT this early but it just does not fit into his plan to overpay for Penn and the Raiders would be better off drafting a skill player in the top 5 of the draft.

As it stands now Oakland has four tackles on their roster; Menelik Watson, Matt McCants, Austin Howard and Khalif Barnes. With those the only one who has experience at LT is Khalif Barnes and he just simply does not have what it takes to be a starting LT in the NFL. McCants and Howard are going to be battling in the preseason for the starting RT spot with the leader being Howard at the moment. This leaves the door wide open for Watson to seize his opportunity and become the starting LT in just his second season.

Watson may not be the guy Raider’s fans envisioned playing LT this season but he is talented and has the potential to be great. He has the chance to prove himself as the cornerstone LT the Raider’s need. The stars have aligned for Menelik Watson, if he works hard with Coach Sparano this offseason he has all the physical tools and talent to dominate the leagues pass rushers and keep the QB upright.

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Tags: Menelik Watson NFL Offseason Oakland Raiders

  • R8R4LIFE

    I had high hopes for him last season.. I hope he can stay healthy and do good for us! I can feel the plan taking shape!.. watch out in 2015! I’m excited for this year too.. #RAIDERNATION

  • Glenn

    Well done. I hope Watson becomes the beast LT that he was envisioned to be by RMac.

  • KloverJane

    Well that’s a lot to ask of a 2nd year player. I know his lingering calf issue must’ve bothered him, a lot. Run block and pass block. We need the depth. We don’t have the weapons apparently, to allow our QB to throw as quick as Manning. Peyton. And I mean from snap to execute. Our QBs typically need time in the pocket. When they havent been scrambling for their lives. So, reads and check downs have been issues for all our signal callers.
    I know we’re stocking up though. Based on our overall awarded tough strength of schedule, we’re going to have too. The Autumn wind cometh…

  • Mark Shafer

    He has the size, the agility, and the work ethic ( he would not have gotten this far in such a short time in football if he didn’t work hard at it ) to be a valid left tackle for us.

  • PK

    Now go get Mack to provide leadership and to be the anchor the line will be stout

  • Demarkus Tramail Swan

    This is what happens when you FOOLISHLY LOWBALL YOUR STARTING LT WHEN U HAVE MORE $$ than any TEAM IN THE NFL!! Now we have to trust a 2nd yr player THST HAS SHOWN NO DURABILITY WHSTSOEVER!!

    There is no way you n go into the 2014?season with this guy as your starting LT. You can’t, we would have no legit backup (No, KHALIF ISNTSUITABLE) SMH

  • Baseman

    Do we really think Howard is COMPETING for a starting job at $6mil/yr? Is McCants that good, I barely remember him. I’d assume its pretty much a lock for Howard.

  • slmraiders

    Makes no sense. Veldeer was also hurt most of last season. Not so durable either.And played just ok when he returned.

  • raidernation

    Shut up foo. Obviously u don’t know football. If u seen Watson played last yr he was solid .rookies step up n start right away n Watson has the tools for that u idiot. Go root 4 the chargers.even the worst lineman in nfl .Lucas Nix handle his business when Mclovin was starting ..

  • J.R.

    yes i assume so as well however they like mccants and if mccants outplays howard in preseason its possible they move howard to guard with mccants at tackle

  • J.R.

    i believe it was RM plan all along he wouldnt have drafted him in the 2nd rd if he wasnt going to try to develop him into the starting lt

  • Eric Torres

    So McKenzie was prepared to wildly overpay for Saffold an injury plagued OL.better suited to play guard than tackle was a good idea? but you think overpaying for an actual LT without an injury history is a bad idea? Hmm, how does that logic work? Please, enlighten me…

  • Eric Torres

    Also, I’m not knocking Watson but it would be foolish to rely solely on a Rookie LT with injury issues without having a competent LT capable of starting in case Watson cant

  • Eric Torres

    Why were my comments deleted. All I asked is how signing Saffold a better guard than tackle at an inflated price is a good move and signing Penn a tackle is a bad one? Especially if Penn has never been injured
    My question used no foul language and all I asked from you was to explain why you believe this. If having a discourse with someone asking valid questions is offensive to you that isn’t good

  • Eric Torres

    My question used no foul language and all I asked from you was to explain why you believe this. If having a discourse with someone asking valid questions is offensive to you that isn’t good

  • J.R.

    Saffold was younger than penn is and I never thought that was a great deal however to pay penn the top money at 30 is an overpay as he has declined in recent years and with what Reggie had been doing I didn’t think he would overpay for an aging lt when he has his guy to play there but they just signed penn reportedly and we will have to see the numbers to see if it’s an overpay or not

  • Eric Torres

    My apologies about post being deleted I see them now…stooopid computer,lol

  • chris long

    Watson played last year? Im pretty sure he was hurt all year right off the start in training camp