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ALAMEDA – Raiders right tackle Khalif Barnes was listed as questionable Friday after practicing for the first time in nearly three weeks. Despite the 50-50 designation, it still seems extremely unlikely Barnes will play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
That leaves Menelik Watson in line to make his second straight start. After his last performance, that may be a good thing. Watson had the best game of his young career, just 10 contests old at this point. He allowed just two pressures against San Diego and opened holes in the ground game, which averaged 5 yards per carry behind him and guard Austin Howard.
That’s one game. Interim head coach Tony Sparano demands a consistent string.
“One thing with any player, but particularly with young players, is, you don’t want to see that roller coaster,” Sparano said. “You want to see them perform at a consistent level so that you know what you’re getting each week. Menelik hasn’t played in a lot of football games. I like what I’ve seen recently, but there’s a lot more football to be played here. Consistency is going to be the key for him.”
Watson believes consistency should be easier to come by. He’s learning faster and adjusting well in games, a new development should help avoid repeat mistakes.
“When I do mess up, it’s become easier to understand what went wrong and exactly how to repair it,” Watson said. “Mistakes happen, even to the best in the game. One thing I’ve learned from last year is to take emotion out of those moments, process information quickly, fix things and go.”
Watson remains the right tackle of the future, though the Raiders could secretly be hoping he takes control of the present. Watson is a talented, though inexperienced athlete still coming into his own. He will always play with emotion – that’s part of what makes his good – but he’s finding ways to channel it appropriately.
“I’m at the point now where I don’t get too excited or too down on myself,” Watson said. “You need to find the right medium, where you are working your tail off to exhaustion but you can continue to play smart without losing your nasty streak. That’s the ultimate goal.”