When the Raiders signed Alex Barron this off-season, most people were thinking he had no chance of making this team. After all, he hasn't played a down in the NFL for two seasons. Those players rarely are able to break back into the league. But thus far in camp, Alex Barron has looked every bit the former first round pick.
Dennis Allen has been pleasantly surprised in Barron's performance.
"I've been impressed with the things Alex Barron has done and that's been a nice surprise for us," said Allen. "He's a guy that's kind of getting that second chance and he's taking advantage of it. . . [He's] had a nice camp so far. I'm really anxious to see what a guy like that does when he gets into the preseason games, and see if what he's been doing out here on the practice field translates into the game."
The Raiders are the perfect team to give Barron that second chance. It has been a while since he had an opportunity like this.
After spending the first five seasons of his career as a fulltime starter with the Rams, things went downhill fast for this former 19 overall pick. In his final season in St Louis in 2009, his ten penalties for 50 yards was the most in the NFL. He spent one season with the Cowboys appearing in 11 games with just one start. That was the last time he played in a regular season game.
Then he signed with the Saints in the off-season but suffered a knee injury and was placed on IR for the entire 2011 season. Last year, he tried out for the 49ers and left unsigned before being signed by the Seahawks. He would spend training camp in Seattle but be among the final roster cuts and receive no interest in his services last season.
By the time this off-season rolled around, Alex Barron was now not even an NFL afterthought --he was not a thought at all.
We've all heard the saying with regard to the NFL; ‘What have you done for me lately'. It's one of the more common phrases used to judge a player or coach. That is just as true for players who haven't played at all lately. Once they are away from football for more than a season, they're out of sight, out of mind.
"Once you're away (from the NFL) you kinda just sorta fade away," said Barron. "That's just kind of how the league is. Nothing I could do about it. Only thing I could do was keep working and keep waiting and that's pretty much all that was."
Come this off-season, this 30-year-old former everyday starting left tackle didn't receive a single invitation to work out for a team. The NFL had clearly moved on from him. If Barron was to get back into the eyes and minds of the NFL, he would have to make it happen.
"It was actually a pro day back at school," said Barron. "I had a little trouble getting workouts because I hadn't been in last season. . . So, I just took it upon myself knowing at my school there were gonna be a lot of coaches, head coaches, scouts, whatever the case was. I had nothing to lose. I was in shape and I had been working so it was like ‘well, only thing I can do is show them what I got'."
The Raiders had scouts in attendance at that Florida State pro day. They were there to see the rookies along with right tackle Menelik Watson. But while they were impressed with Watson enough to make him their round two pick, Barron also caught their eye. Now in an odd twist of fate, Watson has been injured all camp and Barron has been taking his place and making a strong case of his own.
The Raiders have had Barron moving back and forth from right and left tackle. He has been the primary backup on both sides behind Jared Veldheer and Khalif Barnes respectively. So, even when Watson does return to action, there will be room for both of them.
Watching him dominate edge rushers in blocking drills and earn the respect of the coaches more each day makes one wonder if he can clean up his penalties, just how good he could be. He would certainly offer the team some security in case a starter were to be lost to injury. That's a great value to the rebuild effort in Oakland.