ALAMEDA – Derek Carr had spoken to Kelechi Osemele since he signed a massive contract with the Raiders, but the quarterback hadn’t met his new bodyguard before Monday.
The pair converged just before the offseason program, and Carr was surprised. 6-foot-5, 330 pounds didn’t do him justice.
“The first time I saw that guy, I couldn’t believe how big he was, not just how big he was because all offensive linemen are big, but that guy is jacked,” Carr said. “You could that he’s not just a big guy. He’s cut, he’s lean. It’s just like, ‘You weigh what? And you look like that?’ It’s unreal. The guy is a freak of nature.”
That’s why he commanded a high price. It’s also why he fits in well with this offensive line. The Raiders prefer maulers on the interior. They have them now, with Osemele and Gabe Jackson flanking cerebral, athletic center Rodney Hudson.
Osemele’s new deal and left tackle Donald Penn’s return have national pundits buzzing about the Raiders offensive line, now considered one of the NFL’s best. Most of that respect was built last year, with four returning lineman holding down the fort.
Osemele’s the big addition, easily the best offensive lineman on the market. He still hasn’t played a snap in silver and black, but already has his new team excited about the future. And the new guy surely isn’t lacking confidence.
“The first time I saw him, I walked up to him and gave him a hug and said, ‘Hey, thanks for coming here.’” Carr said. ”He just laughed and said, ‘Not a problem, man. You’ll have all day.’ I said, ‘All right. I’ll hold you to it.’”
That’s a realistic claim. Osemele gave up just one sack last season, and steps into an already strong line.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus used last year’s grades to square off against the 2015 Dallas Cowboys, which was the NFL’s finest last year.
The offensive line has confidence entering the season and, as Penn says, wants to “back up the hype.”
That comes from shoring up last year’s lone weak spot with a top young talent.
“Kelechi is a really good player,” Hudson said. “I’ve kind of watched him from afar, as I do watching tapes of other teams and game-planning for us. You see guys play over time. He’s a good player. He plays hard and physical and he’s definitely going to help us out.”