ALAMEDA – Menelik Watson has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, leaving the Raiders to adjust to life without the rookie left tackle.
Exactly how long the Raiders will go without Watson remains in question, but it could be longer than a week.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen wouldn’t give Watson’s formal diagnosis. He wouldn't say how long Watson would be out, or if surgery was an option being discussed.
“I don’t want to get into speculation on when he’ll be back,” Allen said. “I don’t like to comment on when guys will be available. As soon as he’s rehabbed and ready to go, he’ll be back and ready to play.”
It uncertain when that might be, or how long right tackle Khalif Barnes will have to fill in on the left. It’s a difficult transition to be sure, despite Barnes’ experience at the position from 2005-08.
“It’s definitely going to be tough for him,” center Stefen Wisniewski said. “I know he hasn’t played left tackle in several years, and the footwork is totally different, but he’s our best pass blocker, so we want him at that blind side. I expect him to get the job done week 1, but he’ll certainly get better as the year goes on.”
Wisniewski’s take implies that Barnes will have time to adjust at left tackle, suggesting that Watson may be out much more than this week.
The Raiders must carry on without the second-round draft pick, who was thrust into the spot with just three quarters preseason experience and a handful of practices under his belt.
Jared Veldheer remains on the active roster recovering from triceps surgery that will sideline him until midseason at least.
Barnes’ transition creates a void on the right filled by Tony Pashos, who was signed on Monday. The veteran has nine years experience, which should help ease his transition.
“Having Tony is much different than having to get a young player ready to go in a short period of time,” Allen said. “It’s really more an adjustment of (play terminology) than it is anything else.”
Barnes and Pashos bookended a productive offensive line with the 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, but time has worn on both players. The Raiders youth movement with Veldheer and Watson has been stalled by injury, which hasn’t hindered progress of the offense as a while.
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“It’s a factor, but it is what it is,” Allen said. “You have to move on. It is a next-man up philosophy. We’ll go with the guys that we have healthy and available to play. When we face adversity, we expect guys to step up and take advantage of their opportunities. We expect that the other guys will step up and take the extra slack.”
Wisniewski must help facilitate such a transition. It’s become routine this preseason, as offensive linemen has fallen all around him. “You have to communicate.,” Wisniewski said. “You have to have a lot of conversations, a lot of meetings using the same terminology. I’ve been having a lot of side conversations and what to do in certain situations. We have a lot of plays and there are a lot of looks they can give. It takes a lot of work, but we’ll get there.”
The Raiders only have two healthy tackles on the roster. Practice-squad tackle Chris McCants travelled with the team and could be activated on Saturday. He'll be the primary backup at both tackle spots.