ALAMEDA – The Raiders lost a pair of offensive linemen on Sunday at New Orleans, both at right tackle. Menelik Watson suffered a groin injury and Matt McCants had a knee ailment that removed them from the game.
The Raiders had to improvise, sliding left tackle Donald Penn to the right side, left guard Kelechi Osemele to Penn’s spot and brought Jon Feliciano into the mix at left guard.
“I think (offensive line coach) Mike Tice did a phenomenal job,” head coach Jack Del Rio said in his Monday press conference. “I think the offensive line did a phenomenal job. Guys adjusted and carried on. It was really awesome to see. We do work on contingency plans; that’s probably as far (as we plan). I mean, that’s exhausting it right there.”
You could say that again. The Raiders were out of reserve offensive linemen, with Austin Howard hurt and seventh-round rookie Vadal Alexander inactive.
Del Rio said blocking tight end Lee Smith was the next man up, most likely as an emergency offensive tackle.
Despite, those challenges, the patchwork offensive front held strong and helped the Raiders score 21 points in the fourth quarter. Derek Carr was not sacked and rushers had creases to run through.
Del Rio didn’t have updates on Watson or McCants, only that both players underwent further examination on Monday and that neither injury was considered long-term.
Howard’s injury isn’t considered serious, but he hasn’t practiced since rolling an ankle in the preseason finale. He would be the first option if Watson can’t go. Alexander has played right guard and right tackle. The Raiders also have an open roster spot that could be used on an offensive lineman, though the team needs linebacker depth as well.
More on going for 2: Del Rio has never been in a position like he was on Sunday, with a decision to try and win a game with a 2-point conversion. That’s a lot of pressure, a spot where many would’ve played for overtime, but he never wavered in his choice to take a chance.
“I’m not a gambler, but I do believe in having the courage to do what I think is best for this football team,” Del Rio said. “I understand that with that, questions get asked. Good or bad, I’m willing to do that when I’m doing what in my gut I believe is the right thing and part of that was showing the belief in our football team – showing the belief in Derek Carr, showing the belief in Michael Crabtree. Showing the belief in our group to go down and do the things we needed to do to win that game.”
Too many flags: The Raiders were flagged 14 times for 141 yards against the Saints, a far-too-high total for any squad. Many were judgment calls, but that many setbacks are not conducive to winning.
“I don’t like the number,” Del Rio said. “We’re going to work hard to have as few as possible. There are some judgment calls that are going to be made and it doesn’t always go your way. So, you just keep playing. I think for us, we are a disciplined football team. We take pride in that. We work hard to play smart and we’ll clean up where we can and coach it up. But, we love the effort. We got great effort out of our guys yesterday. They played really, really hard, 60 minutes worth and I’m very proud of that.”