NAPA -– Menelik Watson and Austin Howard are locked in an intriguing position battle to start at right tackle. The matchup pits quality versus quality, one that will take time to sort out.
Offensive line coach Mike Tice is taking a fair, measured and patient approach to his evaluation as training camp moves along.
“We want to make sure both guys are getting equal work,” Tice said after Wednesday’s practice at the Napa Valley Marriott. “Watson has been doing a nice job coming back from the Achilles injury, and he knocked the rust off early in camp. Austin was a little slow coming back (from knee surgery), but he’s starting to get his wheels under him.”
Watson had taken nearly every snap with the first team, but Tice gave Howard some first-unit work during late team drills. It also served to spell Watson after getting shaken up in the middle of practice, though he was able to return.
Both players can be strong additions to the team. Future practice and preseason work will weigh heavily in Tice’s decision.
“It’s going to come down to the wire,” Tice said. “The guy who doesn’t win is going to have to swing for us.”
That will helped with overall depth on a strong offensive front otherwise set.
Tice also said that Jon Feliciano will be a swing interior lineman, as the team’s backup center and the first guard off the bench.
Watching Penn’s reps: Tice has been impressed by left tackle Donald Penn, who came into camp in great shape after signing a two-year contract to stay with the Raiders. The veteran coach will keep close eye on Penn’s workload, in an effort to keep the 33-year old from wearing down in camp.
“We have to be conscious of his reps,” Tice said. “After a tough day like today, we may have him down a little bit tomorrow. He’s our oldest guy, and I want to make sure he gets to the season fresh.”
Good day for first-team offense: Quarterback Derek Carr had a solid Wednesday practice, including several quality throws to receiver Amari Cooper. Carr finished strong with a 60-yard drive on two-minute drill that ended with a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree.
The first unit was the only one to end its drive with a touchdown.
Other notes from Raiders practice:
-- Rookie SLB Shilique Calhoun worked some with the first unit in passing drills as the rookie continues his transition from defensive end to linebacker, where he’ll be required to cover more than in college. Calhoun has the athleticism required to play the position, and has flashed some quality in the early going.
-- QB Connor Cook threw some sharper passes on Wednesday, but still doesn’t look great at this stage. He has been late on passes and inaccurate on some. Preseason games should offer a better progress report on Cook, who seems likely to be the No. 3 quarterback this season.
-- TE Mychal Rivera continues to make strong catches at practice, though Gabe Holmes is often in for first-unit rushing formations. It will be interesting to see what the Raiders value in a third tight end behind Clive Walford and Lee Smith
Daily transactions: DL Greg Townsend was moved off the physically unable to perform list. On Tuesday, the Raiders reached an injury settlement with Roy Helu and released him.
Returned to practice: N/A
Did not practice: TE Colton Underwood, CB SaQwan Edwards
Physically unable to perform list: DL Denico Autry
Next practice: The Raiders will practice on Thursday morning, the second session in a five-day work stretch.