COMMENTARY | As the Oakland Raiders prepared for their second preseason game, they were one of the few teams in the NFL not to be bitten by the injury bug.
It was a sprained knee here, a torn ACL there for other teams, but nothing that had affected the Raiders at all. Now, that's all changed after head coach Dennis Allen said their best offensive tackle, Jared Veldheer, will require surgery for his torn triceps.
This is a huge blow for the rebuilding Raiders.
Offensive tackles don't get anywhere near the amount of credit they deserve. They don't catch 40-yard deep balls down the sideline or make bone-crushing tackles across the middle of the field, but they play such a pivotal role in helping to establish the offense, especially Veldheer.
At 6 feet 8 inches, 321 pounds, the man they call "Hulk" is the Raiders' best lineman. Plain and simple.
With Veldheer on the shelf, the Raiders must now scramble to find a replacement to protect an inexperienced Matt Flynn's blindside. CSN Bay Area Insider Scott Bair reported that Alex Barron, the St. Louis Rams' first-round pick in 2005 who was acquired by Oakland in the offseason, has taken reps to fill the void now left by Veldheer.
Barron has never been very good in the NFL, but the Raiders have to hope he can turn that around. After losing their best offensive lineman, Oakland needs somebody to step up.
Veldheer's absence now raises questions as to how the Raiders will use their best offensive weapon, Darren McFadden. As the team reverts back to the power-blocking scheme that McFadden fit so well in, it will be interesting to see how much he favors the left side of the field with so much uncertainty on that side of the line.
To make things worse, the Raiders still have glaring holes on the right side of the line as well. Khalif Barnes was not very good last year at right tackle, and Oakland's second-round pick, Menelik Watson, has been injured for most of training camp.
Right guard Mike Brisiel was brought in specifically to compliment Oakland's zone-blocking scheme last year, so who knows how he'll fare this season.
At this point, center Stefen Wisniewski is the only consistent lineman the Raiders have.
Allen is hopeful Veldheer can return by Nov. 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he realizes that the anchor to his already-shaky offensive line could miss the entire season.
Veldheer's injury isn't being talked about like some of the notable names that have already gone down, but the impact of his loss is monumental. Now, it's up to the Raiders to make the best of the serious blow they've been dealt.
Steven Slivka is a freelance writer for the Oakland Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.
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