NAPA – Jared Veldheer’s loss hurts the Raiders on several levels. The offensive line must shuffle and adjust without its star left tackle. Not only does it deplete the Raiders depth, it constricts plays Greg Olson can call.
The Raiders offensive coordinator tailors his scheme to his personnel and plays to his best player’s strengths. Veldheer ranks among them, if not at the top. With Veldheer out several weeks recovering from triceps surgery, Olson's going to make some changes. He will take the next few weeks and tweak his scheme to account for Veldheer’s absence.
“I think it changes how we’re going to use everybody, to be honest with you,” Olson said. “It’ll impact how we use Darren McFadden, it’ll impact how we use Marcel Reece. You don’t lose a player like that and think that you’re not going to have to change some things or do some things differently.”
Although stats don’t show it, Veldheer was a major component of this offense. He’s a perfect fit for the power, gap-creation blocking scheme and bought precious seconds for passes downfield.
Without an adequate replacement on the roster, Olson is left to wonder whether some aspects of his scheme still work.
“It will be a difficult role to fill and somebody’s going to have to step in and fill those shoes,” Olson said. “But, philosophically speaking, do we feel like we have the players right now? With Jared, he was obviously and important piece of what we’re trying to do but we feel like right now, we’ll take a look at Alex Barron and continue to evaluate him as we move forward.”
Veldheer is an excellent run blocker, and Barron isn’t at that level. The Raiders never got a chance to run consistently during Friday’s exhibition at New Orleans, which hurt the evaluation process. Olson still doesn’t know what he can run after injuries to Veldheer and other offensive linemen.
“We’ll continue to look at it during these last two preseason games, and more specifically Friday’s game,” Olson said, “and we’ll see if (the power, gap scheme is) something we’ll continue to expand upon.”
Watson expected back Wednesday: Head coach Dennis Allen said rookie offensive tackle Menelik Watson should return to practice on Wednesday, the final day of training camp. Watson has practiced once during camp due to a calf injury. He returned on Aug. 7 and quickly suffered a setback.
Take it easy: Allen has slowed the practice activity of players returning from injury. After Watson, defensive tackle Pat Sims and receiver Jacoby Ford suffered setbacks midway through camp, he’s been cautious if bringing a player back to full speed too fast.
That’s kept practicing starters out of games (i.e. Lamarr Houston), and will again Friday against Chicago. That’s of little consequence to the Raiders, who are starting to get healthy again.
“We need to ease guys back into things,” Allen said. “We had some setbacks earlier in camp, and we want to avoid that moving forward.”
New injuries: WR Travionte Session, WR Brice Butler
Returning from injuries: OLB Kevin Burnett (knee), DT Pat Sims (hamstring)
Still sidelined: SS Tyvon Branch (ribs), TE David Ausberry (shoulder), DL Brandon Bair (hamstring), CB Tracy Porter (groin), RB Latavius Murray, WR Juron Criner, OL Menelik Watson (calf), LB Keenan Clayton, LT Jared Veldheer (, LB Kaluka Maiava.
Physically unable to perform list: LB Miles Burris (knee)
Note: Generally, Allen does not comment on injury specifics during the preseason.
Quote of the day: “This defense could be very good. We have a lot of speed, a lot of new people that are hungry out there. The sky’s the limit.” – Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims on Raiders defensive potential.