The Oakland Raiders might not yet be sure who their starting quarterback will be for Sunday’s road game against the Houston Texans. The offense should get a lift, however, from the return of right tackle Tony Pashos.
Pashos has missed four of the last five games with a hip flexor injury, forcing undrafted rookie Matt McCants and second-round draft pick Menelik Watson to pick up the slack. While McCants and Watson played fairly well in spurts, neither has the experience or knowledge of NFL defenses that Pashos has.
That’s why even though Pashos has been limited in his return to practice this week, coach Dennis Allen is moving forward with plans to start the veteran offensive lineman.
It’s a move that should benefit the 3-6 Raiders in a variety of ways.
Although he’s struggled at times with his run-blocking, the 6’6”, 325-pound Pashos was among Oakland’s top-graded offensive linemen early in the year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). His pass-protection numbers dipped a bit after he initially got hurt, but Pashos remains the team’s best option on the right side.
More importantly from the coaching staff’s standpoint, the presence of the 10-year veteran—the senior member on Oakland’s offensive line—should help reduce some of the erratic play up front. In turn, the pass protection should also improve.
"Tony allows us more of a veteran-type leadership that we’re lacking out there," Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “We were excited about Menelik Watson, but the guy missed all of training camp. He’s getting better every day, but it’s just nice to have the veterans back out there."
This is the closest the Raiders have been to full strength since left tackle Jared Veldheer suffered a torn triceps in training camp and was placed on the injured reserve with designation to return list. Veldheer returned to practice this week but has yet to be added to the team's 53-man roster.
Pashos’ return also frees up Watson to slide over to the left side of the line, where he’ll back up left tackle Khalif Barnes. Barnes has had a rough season, capped by three holding penalties and a false start in Oakland's Week 10 loss to the New York Giants.
The Raiders need all the healthy bodies they can get on offense.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is nursing a sore knee that clearly hindered him in the loss to the Giants. Pryor was held out of practice on Wednesday and was limited to splitting reps with rookie Matt McGloin on Thursday.
Additionally, running back Darren McFadden seems certain to sit out a second straight game with a hamstring injury.
At least the offensive line is starting to look a little more stable. That’s something the Raiders haven’t been able to say all season.
*Any and all information and quotes used in this and any report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand.