After an injury-filled and disappointing rookie season, Menelik Watson is eager to get his NFL career rolling.
The second-year pro from Florida State – an athletic British import – appears on his way to claiming the Raiders’ starting spot at right tackle. He’s stayed injury free, had a good offseason and a strong training camp.
But in the Raiders’ exhibition opener last week, a 10-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Watson actually showed too much eagerness. He jumped too soon on the Raiders’ first offensive play, putting Oakland in a hole.
“It was fun,” Watson told Rebecca Corman of the team’s website on his start. “Too much fun. I came out there and got a false start at the beginning. I just wanted to get off the ball. Everything just feels right. I don’t like it when moments are kind of exploded. I like it when they just seem right and normal.
“Even in the warmup and being part of the first string and running out there for that first series, it just felt right.”
All facets of the Raiders offense showed rust at times, including the offensive line. But the rebuilt unit – featuring several new starters, including Watson – also showed it may have the makings of a solid run-blocking line, allowing room for running backs Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets.
Veteran center Stefen Wisniewski understood Watson’s mistake on the first play, even if he believes the line needs to work on sharpening its performance across the board this preseason, beginning with Game No. 2 Friday night vs. the Detroit Lions.
“Menelik jumping on the first snap, he just really wanted to hit somebody,” Wisniewski told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Vic Tafur. “I am not going to hate the guy for that. We’ll clean up some of the other stuff.”
Watson could be a big part of the Raiders future. If the second-round pick from 2013 can stay healthy and prosper at right tackle in 2014, Oakland has a long-term building block and a gem from last year’s draft class, GM Reggie McKenzie’s second. The Raiders need to get production from their high draft choices, and it now appears Watson is on the cusp of delivering.
Watson’s healthy, happy and eager.
“I am passionate,” he told Corman. “I’m all in. When I put my heart to something, I’m all the way in.”