Raiders to get healthy along the offensive line over bye week

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week will be a breath of fresh air for the Raiders beaten up offensive line.

The issues the Raiders have had along the offensive line have been downright ridiculous. The glaring absences were never more apparent than last week's loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Chiefs were in the backfield early and often and the run game was going nowhere as well.

The fact that I found most interesting from Sunday's game was by the second quarter there was only one starting Raiders offensive lineman from training camp who was on the field in his original position - Lucas Nix - and not only has he been nursing a bad ankle, but has been among the worst performing lineman for the Raiders all season. Even with all the turnover.

That turnover has been almost comically confusing in its varying combinations and different starting players.

The line in camp was supposed to look like this: LT Jared Veldheer, LG Lucas Nix/Tony Bergstrom, C Stefen Wisniewski, RG Mike Brisiel, and RT Khalif Barnes/Menelik Watson.

What it looked like Sunday was this: LT Khalif Barnes, LG Lucas Nix, C Mike Brisiel, RG Lamar Mady, RT Matt McCants.

Between then and Sunday's game the line lost Jared Veldheer to a triceps injury that had him placed on partial season injured reserve, Tony Bergstrom for the season, Menelik Watson to a knee injury and then a calf re-injury, Tony Pashos to a groin injury, and Stefen Wisniewski to a knee injury.

At tackle the loss of Veldheer and Watson had Khalif Barnes shift from right to left tackle and Tony Pashos start at right tackle. Pashos returned from his groin injury only to suffer a hip flexor. He was replaced by undrafted rookie Matt McCants.

On the interior, Andre Gurode replaced Stefen Wisniewski at center only be to lost to a calf injury which caused Mike Brisiel to shift over from right guard to center and another undrafted rookie, Lamar Mady to step in at right guard.

You follow all that?

The Raiders now have two weeks to try and get some of their many injured offensive linemen back. Dennis Allen said Monday that he has never seen firsthand a more banged up offensive line situation than the Raiders faced Sunday and he can only hopes the line can recover over the break.

"I hope it's healthy," Allen said. "To be honest with you I have no idea right now. I think this week is critical for that group to get rested and get recovered. We'll probably know a lot more at the beginning of next week as to who's going to be available for the Pittsburgh game, but right now I don't know the answer to that."

There is only one of the injured linemen who absolutely will not be able to return after the bye week and that's Jared Veldheer because his partial season IR designation won't be up until a week later.

To be clear, just because Veldheer is eligible to return, doesn't mean he will. But the timetable for his injury and surgery has always been pretty close to the same timetable as his IR return date. Today Dennis Allen spoke about Veldheer's likelihood to return on schedule.

"Well I don't know if he's on target," said Allen Monday. "He could potentially return at that point. I don't know if that's a realistic goal or not, but he is getting better. He is improving, and he's working extremely hard to get himself back out there."

Wisniewski has been out with his knee injury for the past two weeks which means it will have been a month by the time the Raiders play again. Until we know the severity of Gurode's groin injury, we don't know for sure how long he will be out but Tony Pashos only missed one week with his groin strain. Pashos now has a hip flexor. Ray Rice had a hip flexor earlier this season and missed one game.

All of these facts make it promising the Raiders will see Wisniewski, Gurode, and Pashos all back after the bye week. Gurode could be important because he looks to be a better option at left guard than Nix. Either way, having both would be preferable.

The one injury we don't know about is the calf injury to Menelik Watson. It's the same injury he had that kept him out all but one day of camp. He re-injured the calf then too and the coaches may opt to be extra cautious with the injury this time. If at some point they don't want to take up a roster spot on him if he's not playing, they could shut him down for the rest of the season. The next two weeks will be key to the decision they make on him.

As is often the case, the bye week couldn't come at a better time. Actually, a better time would have been last week, but let's not split hairs. There is a good chance they get three of their injured linemen back to face the Steelers after the bye - Wisniewski, Pashos, and Gurode - with Watson returning not out of the question. Then a week later, Veldheer could be back as well.

It could get pretty interesting if the Raiders are able to head down the home stretch of the season with a fully healthy offensive line. Using the next two weeks to recuperate will help a great deal to put them on that road.

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