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Menelik Watson thrown into fire as Raiders' left tackle

The Oakland Raiders are in troubled waters at left tackle after Jared Veldheer went under the knife to repair a torn triceps suffered earlier this month.

As the Raiders can attest, finding a reliable bookend in August is akin to unearthing the Ark of the Covenant. That's why Alex Barron, a 30-year-old underperforming lineman who hadn't started a game since 2010, was option No. 1 in Oakland. He failed miserably, leaving the Raiders to turn to option No. 2: rookie Menelik Watson.

Watson, the team's second-round draft pick, is a former basketball player who appeared in just 19 football games at Florida State -- all at right tackle. After missing all but three training-camp practices with a calf injury, Watson is slated for his first NFL start Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen acknowledged the risk.

"Obviously that's something you've got to consider," Allen said this week, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "But again, when you look at where we took this guy and you look at the roster and you look at his potential, I feel like that's the right thing to do. Put him over there and see how he does in the game. We won't know until we put him in a game and get a chance to evaluate him. We haven't had that opportunity yet."'s Gil Brandt was impressed with Watson's Florida State pro day, where the lineman from Manchester, England -- sporting a British accent and a golden tooth -- drew comparisons to boxer Lennox Lewis.

Intriguing backstory, but Watson's ascent is far from a textbook example of how to bring along an untested rookie attempting to play one of the game's toughest positions. And Seattle's hard-charging pass rush won't be the end of it.

If Watson sticks, he'll face a generous helping of Tamba Hali, Dwight Freeney and Von Miller in the AFC West, and coordinators will scheme against him early and often. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, as mobile as he is, can't be sleeping well at night.

"I'm the type of person, if you tell me to do something, I'm just going to do it," Watson said,

We like the attitude. We don't like Oakland's chances of keeping its signal-callers in one piece this season.

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