Veldheer injury might be more costly than you'd think

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

While losing a left tackle would hurt any team, the Raiders might be more devastated by the injury than others.

As the news broke across the wire yesterday that starting left tackle Jared Veldheer was being placed on IR the reaction was predictable — devastation.

On a team with so many question marks and so little predictable talent, the big left tackle was supposed to be one of the few bright spots on a team many predict will be outside of the playoff picture.

In fact, Veldheer is on a short list with Darren McFadden of players Oakland fans would least like to lose.

From the outside, losing a left tackle is obviously devastating.

As the movie Blind Side made known, the importance of a good left tackle cannot be overstated. Not only does he protect his quarterback's blind side, but he's also often matched up against the opposition's top pass rusher.

For some reason, however, the loss of Veldheer seemed to sting deeper than it should for a left tackle.

Maybe it was the expectation that this would be his breakout, Pro-Bowl, season.

Maybe it was the understanding that he was one of only a couple guys Oakland fans assumed they could count on along the offensive line this season.

Even deeper than that, though, is the understanding that the offensive line is truly a make-or-break position in Oakland this season.

If the Raiders offense is going to succeed, it's going to start and end with their ability to run the ball.

With unproven commodities at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end, the Oakland run game is going to dictate how successful the offense is all season.

If Darren McFadden and company can create some momentum and move the ball, then things will naturally open up for the passing game.

If the offensive line fails to open up holes, however, then things could get ugly.

If there's one word to describe the receiving corps in Oakland it's "unproven".

And one thing you can expect with young receivers is inconsistent route running and slow-developing routes.

Naturally, both of those magnify the importance of a stout offensive line.

If the offensive line breaks down early in plays, then Matt Flynn is going to be running for his life while unproven receivers do their best to create separation and make plays down field.

The left tackle position is critical for every team — but on a team that desperately relies on the run game and needs maximum protection on passing plays, the needs are even greater.

On one hand, it's a testament to how much Oakland has come to rely on Veldheer and the expectations they have on him.

On the other, however, it's a telling sign about just how fragile Oakland's chances of success might be this season.

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