To the big uglies we go. All the skill positions are accounted for so now it's time to take a look at the guys who give those skill players time to do their work - the offensive tackles. Every team needs a couple of them to keep the quarterback upright. Here is how the Raiders offensive tackle crew currently stands:
LT Jared Veldheer - 5 starts (5 games played)
OT Khalif Barnes - 16 starts (5 at LG)
RT Tony Pashos - 12 starts
RT Matt McCants - 3 starts
OT Menelik Watson - 3 starts
What began the year as a pretty shoddy looking group actually turned out pretty decent by season's end. The return of left tackle Jared Veldheer from partial season injured reserve helped a great deal. Barnes was doing a stand up job filling in but he is no Veldheer. Not only did Veldheer's return upgrade the left tackle spot but it moved Barnes inside and upgraded the guard position as well.
Barnes was supposed to man the right tackle spot while Menelik Watson filled in for Veldheer but then Watson went out with an injury too. Then re-injured it, then had another injury, then re-injured the previous injury again.
With Barnes at left tackle, the Raiders signed preseason standout, Tony Pashos to play the right tackle position. He actually played quite well and started most of the season there.
The Raiders signed Matt McCants as well and got great production from him too. It appears McCants and Pashos were pretty good finds.
Team need: Low
The national NFL media likes to look at the stats and gasp at how many sacks the Raiders gave up on the season. But if you actually know what happened, you realize it isn't near as bad as they think it is. They see the 44 sacks opponents (3rd most in the NFL) had on them and say ‘wow, they need offensive tackle help'. But that is not seeing the whole picture. Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn were sacked a combined 38 times over 10 games - a rate of nearly four sacks per game. Those numbers miraculously improved to exactly one sack per game in the six games Matt McGloin started. Funny what a little pocket presence can do (remember when Tim Tebow made All Pro Ryan Clady look like hot garbage? That happened). Oh, and just 12 of those 44 sacks were given up by the tackles. The offensive tackle position is fine.
Also fanning the flames is the fact that Jared Veldheer is set to become a free agent. I have even seen some draft gurus suggesting he may not be re-signed. He will. There is no way the Raiders are letting him get away -- even if it means slapping the franchise tag on him -- so just get that thought out of your pretty little heads right now. The Raiders also spent a second round pick on right tackle Menelik Watson last season whom they'd like to see if he can be a starter. If he can't, Pashos and McCants showed they are more than capable of stepping up again. And, of course, there's always the possibility that Barnes could be back as well.
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