Oakland Raiders Starting RT Job Up for Grabs Between Menelik Watson, Austin Howard


Going into his third NFL season, former second round draft pick Menelik Watson would be expected to0 have a fast track for a starting job on the Oakland Raiders offensive line. After all the former Florida State Seminole from Manchester, England battled off an injury plagued rookie season to grow into a serviceable NFL player during his sophomore season with the Raiders, something that should be built on after another offseason to improve upon his skill set.

However a new coaching staff may change Watson’s track to more snaps in 2015 as the player who could have been expected to be the starting right tackle for the Raiders this upcoming season will be competing with a veteran for the job according to new head coach Jack Del Rio, who was at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine answering questions from the media where he discussed Watson’s status.

Del Rio told ESPN’s Bill Williamson that he expects for Watson to compete for the job with Austin Howard, a likely camp battle that will pit the third year talent up against the veteran who signed with the Raiders during 2014 NFL Free Agency. Something that may indicate that Del Rio wants the former second round pick to show him something before committing to Watson long term for the 2015 season as a Week One starter.

Howard, 27, is a former undrafted free agent who has spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets before making his way to the Raiders last season. His experience and former undrafted status make the potential competition an interesting pitting the former second round draft pick against a player who has proven himself after going undrafted out of Northern Iowa.

Howard was playing guard last season with the Raiders, filling in for depth on an offensive line that rotated plenty of players due to various injuries over the course of the season, but Del Rio identifying Howard as a right tackle should concern Watson who is likely hoping to get a starting job. The 2013 second rounder hasn’t had the success expected when he was taken out of Florida State so losing his job to Howard would be another setback in a career that has yet to see the returns of a second round pick over his first two seasons with the Raiders.

More from Las Vegas Raiders News

Of course Watson is still the favorite to earn the job based on his upside and his playing time at the position last year, but new offensive line coach Mike Tice and his new head coach in Del Rio will need to see some proof that the youngster is worth the commitment at the position during training camp. That likely means getting in better shape and staying on the practice field, two things that Watson has struggled with over his first two seasons.

It is early in the process to make more than small notes on these types of quotes from Del Rio, but it is definitely worth watching how this new staff approaches the right tackle position and Watson over the course of the offseason. A former second round pick from just two drafts ago, general manager Reggie McKenzie made a large investment in Watson that is only going to pay off if he is on the field. Losing a starting job in his third NFL season would indicate that the pick isn’t going to pan out as expected during his contract with the Raiders, so Watson will be a player to watch during the preseason as he looks to prove to his new coaches that he is still a player the team can build their offensive line around going forward.