One of many questions facing the Raiders this training camp is how the offensive tackles will perform. With two new starters heading into camp and several new faces, on a vital position, these questions must be answered and the Raiders are hoping the presumed starters pass with flying colors.
Here's how the position stacks up heading into training camp.
LT: Donald Penn, Jack Cornell, Emmett Cleary
RT: Menelik Watson, Matt McCants, Danny Kistler, Erle Ladson
Last year's starters heading into camp were Jared Veldheer and Khalif Barnes. Veldheer left for Arizona and Barnes moved to guard. Donald Penn was signed as a free agent from the Buccaneers to take over at left tackle. Emmett Cleary was also a Buccaneer, who was claimed off waivers. Danny Kistler and Erle Ladson were signed as undrafted free agents.
The big question
Can Donald Penn make up for the loss of Jared Veldheer?
The Raiders lost one of the better left tackles in the league when Veldheer was allowed to walk as a free agent. Donald Penn is coming off a terrible season and was cut by the Bucs. Penn was at one time considered to be a very good left tackle. The Buccaneers thought he was done so they signed his replacement and moved on. The Raiders were desperate and signed him as the only good option out there.
Best case scenario
Like many of the Raiders free agents this off-season, they're hoping their previous season is an anomaly and they can return to their form from seasons prior. This is their hope for Penn. Left tackle was the one position the Raiders didn't have to worry about. If he can keep them from missing a beat at left tackle, that would be tremendous. Also, having Menelik Watson healthy at right tackle would be great. How well he plays is another story. Let's go with being healthy.
Worst case scenario
Matt Schaub was another of those free agent pickups the Raiders had who is coming off a terrible season. If Penn doesn't rebound from his bad season, Schaub will get rattled and everything falls apart. Giving up anything close to the 12 sacks Penn gave up last season will cause a domino effect of poor offense. No pressure. Also, we find out Watson is simply injury prone. There have been many talented players who could never get their careers off the ground because of injuries. Another injury plagued season and the Raiders would be leery about putting the job in his hands again.
Donald Penn grew up in Los Angeles while the Raiders were in LA. He and his dad went to Raiders games. When he signed with the Raiders, he tweeted out a picture of himself in a Los Angeles Raiders hat. Is it possible that returning to California to play for the team he grew up with is just what he needs to get his career back on track? We'll see. He is 31-years-old.
Raiders offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, was the offensive coordinator in Tampa for four seasons from 2008-11, which were the best of Penn's career. Penn started every game during Olson's tenure with the Bucs, making a Pro Bowl in 2010.
Menelik Watson has some extra motivation this year. He is from England and the Raiders play in London this year.
Prior playing one season at Florida State, Watson played right tackle for California's Saddleback College. Playing on the other end of that line was current Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long. Kyle Long is son of former Raiders Hall of Fame defensive end, Howie Long.
Matt McCants proved a capable starter at right tackle when he was forced to start three games last season for the Raiders. He was a 2012 sixth round pick by the New York Giants.