It is a very difficult situation for a rookie to get injured early in the offseason because it stunts development. That was exactly what happened to Oakland Raiders 2013 second round pick Menelik Watson last season. Watson battled calf injuries during training camp that kept him out of action. During the season, he re-injured the calf and dealt with some knee issues as well. All of that culminated in Watson being unable to gain that valuable experience as a rookie. However, 2014 is a new year and expectations are high for Watson to come back healthy and help the Raiders' offensive line.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of Watson during OTAs. “From that standpoint, yeah he is behind. But I don’t think that’s something that he can’t overcome. I think he’s in a good place right now. I think he’s in a good place physically. I think he’s in a good place mentally. We’re excited about the prospect of Menelik Watson and hopefully he’ll continue to develop. We’ve got some time, but he’s got to continue to develop and develop at a pretty rapid pace.”
Despite that massive learning curve and the lack of experience outlined by Allen, Watson was at least able to gain some experience that should suit him well in his more expansive 2014 role. Watson made three starts in 2013 and appeared in five total games. Not exactly what the Raiders had hoped for but some experience is better than zero. The plan for the upcoming season is to have Watson start at right tackle as part of a massively upgraded offensive line.
With a healthy training camp and preseason, Watson can begin to acquire that needed experience. His development is a huge key to the Raiders offensive line in 2014. Watson is raw to begin with because he started to play football in college. He was a basketball player, soccer player, and boxer prior. Because of that diverse background, Watson is still just scratching the surface of his potential. This offseason, the Raiders will try to squeeze that potential out of him and develop him into the player they believe he can be.
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