The Oakland Raiders offensive line has taken a big hit through the first quarter of the season, as starting right tackle Menelik Watson has missed time with a groin injuries, and tackles Austin Howard and Matt McCants have also missed time due to injury.
Because of all the injuries Oakland was forced to start rookie seventh round pick out of Louisiana State University Vadal Alexander at right tackle in Sunday’s Week 4 28-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Alexander was flagged for three holding penalties and a false start in the game, but Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was kept upright as the Ravens went without a sack in the game. The 22-year-old talked about how he thought he performed in his first career start, via Jerry McDonald of Mercury News:
“Outside of the penalties I thought I had a pretty solid performance,” Alexander said. “Definitely some things I can improve on in the running game and passing game. But when we protect Derek, no sacks, no pressures, that’s always a good thing. That’s what we pride ourselves on. It was definitely a plus for that.”
Alexander credited his defensive teammates, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin for helping him prepare for a pass rush like the one the Ravens have:
“I always had confidence I could go out and play tackle,” Alexander said. “Being here, going every day in training camp against Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin every day, they’re rushing as hard as they can. They helped build my confidence, reassure myself to know I could handle my own out there.”
The Raiders drove down the field late and scored the game-winning touchdown with 2:12 remaining in the game on a six-play, 66-yard drive. Throughout the course of that drive Alexander was matched up with Raiders All-Pro and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs and the rookie held his own.
With Watson still yet to practice Alexander will likely get another start Sunday when the Raiders host the San Diego Chargers.