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Raiders slide Austin Howard back to tackle

Austin Howard was paid big money to join the Raiders as the team’s right guard, converting from right tackle.

After the failed attempt, Howard will become a right tackle again and have one year to prove he can start in the NFL.

Via Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area, head coach Jack Del Rio says there’s still going to be a competition at the right tackle spot:

“We’ve talked about it. He’ll definitely get a look at right tackle. In all likelihood, we’ll start there with him and (Menelik) Watson battling for the right tackle spot. That’s what I envision. We know that he moved in at guard, but he’s probably more suited to be a tackle. … We’ll work through those things and articulate those things to those players.”

Watson has struggled since being drafted in 2013. He’s a behemoth of a man, with an attitude that some coaches could swoon over. But he’s going to need to translate that into production, or risk being a career backup linemen, or worse, unemployed.

Oakland brought in Mike Tice as offensive line coach this year, replacing Tony Sparano.

While Sparano was highly regarded around the league, some longtime NFL insiders believe Tice to be the better line coach. If Watson can’t get things put together under Tice, he could very well be looking at a one-contract NFL career.

Howard, too, hasn’t produced at the level his salary says he should.

He came off a poor contract season with the Jets in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus, and didn’t show improvement last season.

Oakland expects Tice to help revamp the team’s line, which head coach Jack Del Rio recently blamed for the miserable rushing attack of 2014.

The team will need some improvements from both Watson and Howard, and may be eyeing some tackle help this free agency. With Howard kicking outside, it’s nearly certain the team will sign an offensive guard in March.

Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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