In recent conversations, both Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen expressed hope that this young Raiders’ team would be competitive in 2013 as it begins a rebuilding journey.
However, both men stressed the importance of the team staying healthy. The Raiders are one of the thinnest teams in the NFL. The team has dealt with a load of nagging injuries, but none appeared to be overly threatening to the team’s season.
Until now. The Raiders just lost one of their best players in left tackle Jared Veldheer.
The massive, athletic Veldheer suffered a torn triceps and will be put on the injured reserve. The Raiders are hopeful he could come back in the second half of the season. But Allen did admit Veldheer could be shelved for the entire season.
For now, Alex Barron is the left tackle. Barron, a journeyman who didn’t play in the NFL last year, had been fighting Khalif Barnes for the right tackle job. While Barron has had a nice camp, the prospect of having him be the left tackle can’t be a comforting one in Oakland, especially considering how much talent the team loses with Veldheer’s injury.
The Raiders would like to get second-round pick, Menelik Watson, in the mix. But he has been out for virtually all of camp with a calf injury. He has limited football experience anyway, so he is way behind. It may be some time before he can help. The Raiders are unsettled at guard.
Veldheer, who many scouts thought was becoming an upper-level left tackle, and center Stefen Wisniewski were bright spots on the unit. Losing Veldheer leaves Wisniewski as Oakland’s only upper-level player on the line. Yes, Oakland will scour the waiver wire in the coming weeks. But it will be difficult for this team to find solid starters at this point.
The injury is crushing for Veldheer. He is entering his contract year. Oakland will have a major surplus of salary-cap room next year and Veldheer was considered a candidate to being signed before free agency. That could still be the case, but his value could be complicated by this injury.