Henderson is the projected starter and has done enough to earn first crack at the job. Last year Henderson would look like the stalwart left tackle the Raiders have been looking for in one week and a less than stellar tackle in the next week.
He will benefit from improved play at the quarterback position with Jason Campbell under center. More consistent footwork and an internal clock that doesn't read "duh" from the quarterback will undoubtedly help Henderson but in the NFL there is always the threat of injury. Which leads me to my next point.
What happens if Henderson is injured?
Back ups: Jared Veldheer, Bruce Campbell, Erik Pears, Allen Smith, Elliot Vallejo, Langston Walker
First and foremost: I know Walker is more likely to play guard but if Henderson goes down the Raiders will be scrambling for a band aid at the left tackle position.
Jared Veldheer/Bruce Campbell: Both rookies are athletic and mobile but neither appears ready to start on the blind side should an injury occur early in the season. Both would benefit from a year of experience under their belts. If one is pressed into duty I would lean towards Veldheer but it would not be a pretty sight for either rookie to start. Both have near ideal measurables with height, weight, agility, strength and speed but it takes time to learn the game at the pro level. Veldheer dominated at the Division II level but that is a huge leap. Campbell is a combine star that could be vastly under rated if he can improve his consistency.
Erik Pears: Suited to be a back up. He does have some experience but if you thought the line was atrocious last year just imagine Pears protecting Campbells blind side.
Allen Smith is an intriguing undrafted free-agent addition. Smith showed flashes of potential in his Freshman year at Washington State where he was voted to the Pac 10's all-freshman squad and was an honorable mention Freshman All-American by Scout.com as a tackle. Smith received a sixth-year of eligibilty due to medical hardship. He suffered a torn patella tendon in his left knee after starting only the first three games in 2007 and a fractured knee cap in off-season workouts causing him to miss the entire 2008 season. He also suffered a sprained knee in 2009 at Stanford. Injury history is obviously a concern and Smith might be best suited as a guard where he will be less injury prone.......maybe.
Elliot Vallejo: Most likely a practice squad addition this year.
Langston Walker: With his size and age I just don't see him having the agility to get to the speed rush on the outside. Maybe you keep a tight end in to help but this would also spell trouble for the offense.
Not only are the Raiders looking for Henderson to have a break-out year but also stay healthy the entire season.