Why The Oakland Raiders Need Not One, But Two Offensive Tackles


The Oakland Raiders have several needs to fill this offseason, with one of those needs being offensive tackle. And they need two of those.

The Oakland Raiders offensive line did a brilliant job this year, no one questions that, as it is widely regarded as one of the top three units in the league. Hell, it played so well it turned the Raiders’ run attack into something, especially with the shifty rookie “twins” DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard in the backfield.

But for next season there is a glaring issue — the need for offensive tackles, one for each side of the line.

Most people will say that Donald Penn is still playing at a high level at left tackle and that I’m overreacting. As much as the first part of this sentence is correct, Penn is not getting any younger. He will be 34 by the start of the 2017 season, which makes him the third oldest starting left tackle in the league, behind Andrew Whitworth and Jason Peters.

Penn is great, but he just missed his first game in forever with a knee injury. So far he’s been the definition of durability, but how long will this hold? The Raiders need to draft an offensive tackle to learn and develop behind Penn, before taking the reins probably in 2018, maybe 2019. Penn will be 36 by then, and unless he’s some kind of cyborg, he will not be protecting Derek Carr’s blind side for much longer.

As mentioned above, Penn missed the game against the Texans, but we missed him way more. The coaching staff had the option to move Kelechi Osemele from left guard to left tackle, but decided to keep him at the position he excels — which is certainly understandable — opting instead to slide right tackle Menelik Watson the blindside, and then replace Watson on the right side with former starter Austin Howard.

Watson had played a grand total of seven snaps at left tackle this season. We saw how that turned out. In the Wild Card game, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus abused both Watson and Howard, and were in Connor Cook’s face all day long.

Which takes me to the second point of this article. Although Penn is the oldest of the group, he is by far the best offensive tackle in Oakland. He only surrendered one sack this year (unfortunately the one which caused Carr’s fibula injury) and was called for 9 penalties (only 3 for holding), which is quite impressive.

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Watson appeared to be the preference at right tackle (when healthy), with Howard as the immediate backup. But Watson has proven to be injury prone, missing 21 games in three seasons, and only starting five games in 2016. Howard started 10 game at right tackle, but none of those offered much.

In the last game against the Texans, for example, Clowney beat Watson over and over again, finishing with 4 hurries, 2 batted passes and 1 crucial interception in the Raiders’ first drive. On the other side of the line, Howard gave up 2 sacks and looked extremely slow. Neither Watson nor Howard appears to be the answer at right tackle. Both had many opportunities and largely disappointed.

It should also be noted that while Howard is still under contract, Watson is now a free agent. Chances are he will not be re-signed by the Raiders — I’ll be surprised if he is — meaning that the only tackles in the current roster would be Penn and Howard. Another stopgap tackle could be signed in free agency, like Sebastian Vollmer, but this situation is obviously far from ideal.

The bottom line is that Reggie McKenzie and the coaches need to address this issue in the following drafts, starting this coming April. One tackle to plug and play on the right side and another one to eventually replace Penn on the left.

Next: JBB Staff Roundtable: 2016 Raiders Recap

Watson and Howard are backups at best and cannot be relied upon for multiple reasons. An outstanding job done by Mike Tice thus far will be in complete jeopardy if these guys are Oakland’s tackles for the future.