While Terrelle Pryor will, reportedly, not officially, be the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, head coach Dennis Allen will have another announcement to make that can drastically alter the outcome of the game and Raider Nation’s attitude going into the weekend: who will start at left tackle for the Raiders’ offensive line.
As you all know, this position is vital for every team as this role protects, in this case, the quarterback’s blindside, for both Pryor and Matt Flynn (assuming he is not backup fodder). But after learning that starting left tackle, Menelik Watson, “tweaked” his knee in practice today and did not resume play, his candidacy for week one remains in doubt. Now, official reports on the severity of this tweak are not confirmed yet, but let’s assume that the big Brit will not be taking his posture on the line of scrimmage. Thought about it yet? Yea, the idea freaking sucks.
Since Jared Veldheer is injured indefinitely with a torn left triceps and Alex Barron being so bad that was cut, the Raiders are left with either veteran journeyman and recently cut Washington Redskin, Tony Pashos, or a man who has done nothing more to make my blood boil on Sundays: Khalif Barnes. Assuming Watson does not recover and Allen and offensive line coach, Tony Sparano, decides to use Barnes from the right tackle to the left, one thing is for certain: assuming he is the starter, Pryor will need to have his running shoes ready and his Spidey-Sense full on blaring, let alone tingling.
With Barnes at left tackle, with Barnes at Pryor’s blind side, my pessimism will reach the deepest and darkest catacombs of my Raider id. False starts will occur. My head will shake. Holdings will be enforced. Curse words will fly out my mouth like currents from Zeus’ lightening bolt. And sacks will fall faster on my beloved Raiders than the pants of horny actors on a set in the San Fernando Valley. Yes it is a new season, but listen up: I am not Papa Noel. I am a die-hard Raider fan and when you compound the last ten years with the expectation of misery that Khalif Barnes brings with every offensive alignment, can my maligned mindset really be questioned?
And don’t confuse me for a homer with his head firmly rooted inside his own “black hole.” Of course I know that Watson is a rookie. Of course I know that he has barely played the left tackle position at the professional level. Hell, the only outing the second-round pick has seen was the last preseason game against Seattle’s backup, yet deep, defense. And prior to that, due to a calf ailment, he saw limited action on the practice field. And in college he only played 19 games, all on the right side no less. Yet, the 6-foot-5- 315 pound Manchester born athlete shows glimmer of optimism through his barely worn silver and black garb. He had a good showing against Seattle and given the options the Raiders currently have in terms of talent, Watson is a question mark Raiders fans are eager to see answered. Furthermore, Watson represents a gamble; a somewhat cavalier decision Raider fans yearned for from Dennis Allen last year. Allen’s willingness to start Watson in the trenches is a welcomed signal, at least in my opinion, that the second year coach is moving away from his vanilla shackles.
Right now, the tweak is just that, a tweak. The maverick optimism that Watson brings to the Raider Nation is still there and my sanity, before Sunday, remains in check.