Tackle Alex Barron was a first-round pick of the Rams, where he started for several seasons. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
When the Raiders signed offensive tackle Alex Barron in March, it was a signing that barely made a ripple in NFL waters.
Once a former first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2005, Barron hasn’t played in an NFL regular-season game since 2010 and didn’t make the Saints or Seahawks rosters after camp appearances with those teams in 2011 and 2012.
Yet as the Raiders head into their first exhibition game of the summer Friday night against the visiting Dallas Cowboys, Barron may stand an excellent chance this time around of being on Oakland’s opening-day roster.
On the team’s latest depth chart, Barron is listed as the No. 2 left tackle behind Jared Veldheer, and he’s been getting plenty of action with the first-team offense at right tackle as well.
At age 30, the 6-foot-8, 316-pounder – an All-America pick in 2003 and 2004 at Florida State – may have a new lease on his NFL life. When he didn’t make the Seattle or New Orleans rosters the past two seasons, he said he found he missed football a great deal.
“A lot,” he told reporters in March, when he signed with Oakland. “More than I would ever know. Anybody who has been in this situation, they know. The love for the game is unmatched. It’s almost equal to none. When you’re away from it, it takes out of you. It takes away from you. ...When it’s gone, it’s gone. You want to do your best to stay on track, be on top of your game so you can continue.”
At the Raiders training camp in Napa, an injury to second-round draft pick Menelik Watson has helped open the door for Barron. Barron has had a chance to play right and left tackle in practice with the first unit, and has been on the right side when starter Khalif Barnes has moved inside to guard on occasion to fill in for Mike Brisiel.
Barron has been strong both in one-on-one drills and in 11-on-11 practice.
“I’ve been impressed with the things Alex Barron has done and that’s been a nice surprise for us,” head coach Dennis Allen told SB Nation. “He’s a guy that’s kind of getting that second chance and he’s taking advantage of it. … Had a nice camp so far. I’m really anxious to see what a guy like that does when he gets into the preseason games, and see if what he’s been doing out here on the practice field translates into the game.”
Barron will see action Friday against the team he last played for, the Cowboys. After winning the starting left tackle spot for Dallas for the 2010 season, Barron had a horrible season opener against the Washington Redskins. According to Pro Football Talk, Barron was called for holding three times in the game, including on the Cowboys’ final play of the game, which negated what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass. He didn’t start another game that season.
Now, Barron says a knee injury that hampered him late in his time with the Rams and Cowboys is healed and he’s healthy and hungry. After signing with Oakland, Barron was eager to get to work with offensive line coach Tony Sparano and sharpen his game.
“He’s a pretty good coach and I heard he’s a pretty good teacher, also,” Barron told Raiders.com. “And his knowledge of the game is A-1 and I’m just eager to get in there and learn everything he can show me or tell me, make my game better and help the team.”
Barron had caught the eyes of the Raiders while working out at Florida State’s pro day this past spring, where they were scouting Watson, Barron told SB Nation.
Now, with Watson still unable to practice because of an injury, Allen has told the media Watson is “way behind.” That’s given Barron a chance to show what he can do.
If he can play well this Friday night, it could go a long way to cementing his spot on the team.