INDIANAPOLIS – Austin Howard played offensive tackle for most of his professional career. The Raiders signed the career right tackle to a five-year contract worth up to $30 million, and then promptly moved him to right guard.
The switch came at offensive line coach Tony Sparano’s suggestion, and the experiment produced mixed results.
Howard initially struggled making the transition. He improved as the year went on, but it might not have been enough to stay on the interior line.
New head coach Jack Del Rio said that Howard will be headed back to tackle.
“We’ve talked about it,” Del Rio said on Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine. “He’ll definitely get a look at right tackle. In all likelihood, we’ll start there with him and (Menelik) Watson battling for the right tackle spot. That’s what I envision. We know that he moved in at guard, but he’s probably more suited to be a tackle.
“We’ll work through those things and articulate those things to those players.”
Watson made nine starts at right tackle last season, and struggled at times as a pass blocker. The 2013 second-round pick has battled injuries throughout his young career. He certainly doesn’t have a stranglehold on the right tackle spot. In fact, he lost it to Khalif Barnes early last season.
Howard will pose a significant threat to his starting spot. He was a solid player in two seasons as the New York Jets’ full-time right tackle, and gave up just two sacks in 2013, before jumping to the Raiders.