Jared Veldheer injury moves Raiders' outlook from bad to worse
The Oakland Raiders were already facing an uphill battle to stay competitive this season. The task may have become unmanageable with Wednesday's revelation that starting left tackle Jared Veldheer may be done for the season with a torn triceps.
The Raiders likely will place their standout offensive lineman on injured reserve with a return designation, meaning he could be activated later in the season if his recovery progresses. This is a major injury, though, and one which will require surgery, so getting Veldheer back at some point in 2013 may be a pipe dream for Oakland.
The Raiders may be even more cautious with Veldheer, who's set to be a free agent after this season, if they struggle early on as much as it looks like they might. A report out of Oakland earlier Wednesday indicated that the team's coaching staff had "accepted" that projected starting QB Matt Flynn is "not going to have success throwing longer than 25 yards." That's another fly in the ointment for an Oakland QB situation that's already in dire shape. Earlier this offseason, backup Terrelle Pryor admitted that he was just now learning how to properly throw the football; while rookie Tyler Wilson, considered a contender for the starting job after the draft, has fallen to fourth on the depth chart behind the undrafted Matt McGloin.
The loss of a player like Veldheer would be felt on any team, let alone one trying to scrape its way to respectability. The 6-foot-8 behemoth was the Raiders' top offensive lineman last season, hands down, and was all set to be the anchor of a developing line again in 2013.
Without him, it appears that Oakland will turn to Alex Barron, who has not appeared in a regular-season game since 2010 and was a subpar tackle before that. The Raiders did draft Florida State's Menelik Watson in this year's draft, but he is a developmental prospect -- one who likely needs plenty of time to mature for the NFL game. His development notwithstanding, he could be better off at right tackle than on the left side.
Running back Darren McFadden probably will feel Veldheer's loss, too. McFadden had been hoping for a bounce-back 2013, following a disappointing showing last season. The Raiders have scrapped the zone-blocking scheme they used throughout 2012 for the man-blocking system that better fits McFadden's skills. He'll be running behind a line, however, that's overmatched most weeks ... and may have been even with Veldheer in the lineup. Oakland actually did a nice job keeping its QBs upright on passing plays last season, permitting just 27 sacks, the fifth least in the league. That number figures to go up without Veldheer holding down the left side of the line.