ALAMEDA -– Few people know the Baltimore defensive front like Kelechi Osemele. The Raiders left guard practiced against these guys each day over four seasons in Baltimore and, after a check of this year’s game tape, he saw the same brute physicality that unit’s always had.
Coming from a mauler like Osemele, that’s a high compliment. Game, it seems, respects game.
“I’ve just watched them on film and saw exactly what I’d expect,” Osemele said. “Their defensive line looks as explosive as ever. Brandon Williams still looks strong. (Timmy) Jernigan looks as good as he’s ever looked. They definitely look like their old selves. They look good.”
Osemele will meet his old teammates on Sunday when the Raiders play the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
Osemele will handle the inside but more problems exist off the edge. Terrell Suggs will come strong, and he also let inside info slip on Wednesday that Elvis Dumervil is expected to make his season debut and return from foot surgery.
That’s a scary front, one that will certainly test one of the best offensive lines in football. The Raiders are credited with two sacks, though one was a technicality when quarterback Derek Carr round out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage.
The Raiders also feature the NFL’s second-best run game, gashing opponents for 148.3 yards per game with a committee of rushers led by Latavius Murray. The Ravens run defense ranks No. 8, allowing just 86 yards per game.
Baltimore's 3-0 start is due in large part to strong defense, which is in the top five for yards, points and passing. That’s by far the toughest unit the Raiders have faced, especially with nine sacks tallied without Dumervil on the lineup.
Suggs leads the way with three sacks in as many games, proving he’s returned well from last year’s Achilles’ tendon tear. As far as Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s concerned, Suggs is an all-timer. His 109.5 career sacks support that claim.
“He’s a Hall of Famer to me. The guy is ridiculous,” Carr said. “I have the utmost respect for him. I loved him when he was in college. I love watching him play in the NFL. I’m excited to compete against him because he’s just one of those guys, he’s one of the best to ever do it. So, it’s exciting to play against him. Obviously, you hope he doesn’t hit you. It’s fun to watch him hit everybody else, hopefully he doesn’t get to me. But, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun to compete against him because he’s such a good football player.”
The Raiders have made the most of a tricky injury situation up front, with issues keeping right tackles healthy. It’s increasingly likely that Menelik Watson and Austin Howard will miss Sunday’s game, leaving rookie Vadal Alexander to start on the right. He’s a stout, physical player, but will have a tall task with these edge rushers. Matt McCants has more experience but has just returned from a knee injury.
Left tackle Donald Penn has been solid in the run and pass game, with Osemele moving mountains next to him. Center Rodney Hudson and right guard Gabe Jackson have also been tough to beat.
These Ravens, however, represent the offensive line’s toughest test yet.
“They’re rugged. They’re a physical front,” Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “They’re playing both the run and the pass well. We want to keep getting better on our side of the line of scrimmage. We’re really focused on what we do, getting better at running the ball and being balanced. We’ve had a good start, but there’s definitely a lot to build upon.”