It’s no secret that losing a left tackle would cripple any team, but it’s even more devastating when he happens to be one of the best players on the team. With the news that Jared Veldeer is likely to miss at least half of the season if he is designated to return, the Oakland Raiders‘ offense is suddenly in trouble. Losing Veldheer throws a wrench into everything the Raiders had planned for this season, and it’s worth examining the ripple effect of losing an elite left tackle.
The Raiders’ offensive line is now entirely in Tony Sparano’s hands. Already needing to figure out both guard positions, he now only really has Wisniewski as a stable piece to build the line. Ideally, second-round pick Menelik Watson would take over, but he is an extremely raw college prospect with only thirty minutes of training camp practice. It will likely take him some time to adjust to the NFL, so it is critical for him to get healthy as soon as possible to get every single practice snap. Getting Watson healthy as soon as possible is a must for this team, as he needs every single snap in practice to adjust and be ready for game experience. His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the preseason games are a perfect situation for in-game experience for players like Watson. Alex Barron has been enjoying a strong camp and is likely the best fill-in at left tackle, but he hasn’t played a regular-season snap in over two years. If he can clean up his penalties, something that Dennis Allen has done quite well since taking over as head coach, it is possible that the team may be okay in the short-term.
The injury makes me nervous for the Raiders’ run game. Veldheer is a killer run blocker, and while the run game could potentially be elite, a standard run game will greatly be affected by losing the left tackle. Darren McFadden has never been a durable runner, and coupled with losing his best run blocker, his health is brought into even more question. He struggled last year in a scheme that wasn’t suited for him, and in a contract year, it is important that he puts his best foot forward. While the team still has a deep stable of runners, it is important to provide them with an even deeper stable of run blockers.
Because of the instability of the offensive line, coupled with the need for a successful run game, it is starting to look more and more like the Raiders need a mobile quarterback. While Flynn has some success moving within the pocket and scrambling when necessary, he seems to be more of a prototypical pocket passer. When a team loses the blindside protector for a pocket passer, things like Sean Lee’s strip-sack may be much more common than the team would like. I think the Raiders may be forced to rethink their offensive strategy and let Pryor learn on the job. He is still inexperienced, as seen by his forced interception against the Cowboys, but he moved the ball effectively and didn’t rely as much on sitting in the pocket. Rashad Jennings and the other Raiders’ runningbacks enjoyed success on his drives, as Pryor’s running ability caused the defenses to pause and open up running lanes. When injuries occur, it’s important to adjust based on the talent of the team. Flynn could move offenses effectively, but he doesn’t seem to have a lot of flash and improvisational skills, something that seems necessary with a less-than-stellar line.
In any event, best of luck to Veldheer, and get healthy soon please.