ALAMEDA — Rookie Menelik Watson will likely start at left tackle when the Oakland Raiders open their season next week in Indianapolis despite making his debut at the position in the exhibition finale.
Coach Dennis Allen said Friday that he anticipates Watson will have the important role of the blindside protector for the quarterback. Allen will not say yet who that quarterback will be.
Allen said he has made up his mind whether Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn will start against the Colts on Sept. 8 but does not want to divulge that yet for competitive reasons. Allen said he hasn't even told the quarterbacks of his decision yet.
"I think that answer is going to come sooner rather than later," he said.
Allen said he wouldn't discuss roster moves a day before the deadline to get down to 53 players or position battles other than left tackle where Watson will likely start in somewhat or a surprise.
Watson is a former basketball player and boxer from England who first played football two years ago in junior college. He went from there to play one season at Florida State before being drafted in the second round by Oakland in April.
Watson played exclusively at right tackle in college but got his opportunity on the left side when starter Jared Veldheer went down with a torn left triceps that will likely sideline him for at least half the season.
Watson missed almost all of training camp with a calf injury but when he returned to the practice field Aug. 21, he worked mostly on the left side where Alex Barron had struggled since Veldheer's injury.
Allen was impressed by the way Watson played on Thursday night in Seattle against the Seahawks and said that performance earned him the starting job.
"I thought he looked comfortable over there," Allen said. "I thought he played hard. I thought he played physical, which is something I wanted to see. I wanted to see if he would play physical and finish. I thought he did that. Obviously there's still a lot of growth potential there, but I thought for a first time out for a guy that hasn't played in that position in that environment, I thought he handled himself extremely well."
Allen wasn't so revealing about the quarterback spot. Pryor vaulted himself into the conversation to start by leading four scoring drives in the third exhibition game against Chicago. Pryor got the start against the Seahawks with Flynn resting a sore elbow.
He wasn't nearly as effective this time around, completing just 3 of 8 passes for 31 yards and one interception in the first half. But Pryor showed off his athleticism by running three times for 48 yards and will likely play no matter what in the opener. It just hasn't been determined whether that will be as the starter or coming off the bench with a special package of plays.
"You want your quarterback to be able to make plays," Allen said. "It really doesn't matter what the box score says at the end of the game, how many yards they ran for, how many completions they had. What it really boils down to is how do they move the team and are we effective and do we score enough points. Really that's the one thing I'm the most concerned with."