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Austin Howard returns from ankle injury, in line to start for Raiders vs Falcons

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In just the nick of time, Austin Howard was back at practice Wednesday from the ankle injury he suffered in the team’s final preseason game.

Howard was inactive last week and his absence cause quite a stir when starter Menelik Watson left with a groin injury and backup Matt McCants lasted barely a quarter before he too went out injured.

I feel like we’ve been here before. Menelik Watson wins starting right tackle job, Menelik Watson gets injured, Austin Howard takes over starting right tackle job.

That’s what happened last year. The main difference was at that time, it was the preseason when Watson went out and this time Watson played nearly two quarters of the season opener before being lost to injury.

Howard rolled his ankle in the team’s final preseason game. At the time Jack Del Rio said he didn’t think it was anything serious. Prior to practice today, Del Rio was confident Howard would be practicing today, reaffirming his belief that the injury was not significant.

“I expect him to be able to practice today,” said Del Rio before practice Wednesday. “. . . We do anticipate him being able to practice. We’ll see how that goes.”

Neither Menelik Watson nor Matt McCants practiced Wednesday according to media in attendance. Del Rio said he didn’t think their injuries would be significant either, so we wait to see how much time they miss.

Vadal Alexander is expected to back up Howard if neither Watson nor McCants return this week.