The Raiders were set on building a bully along the offensive front. General manager Reggie McKenzie might’ve completed that quest this week, one a few years in the making.
It started in 2013, when the Raiders switched back to a power-based scheme structured on gap creation and control. He drafted tackle Menelik Watson in 2013 and guard Gabe Jackson in 2014.
He ponied up for the rest, paying big money for tackle Austin Howard in 2014, center Rodney Hudson last offseason and guard Kelechi Osemele last week. There was, however, one task untended. He secured the final piece early Wednesday, bringing incumbent left tackle Donald Penn back on a two-year deal.
Now the Raiders offensive line is one intimidating unit. It should feature Penn at left tackle, Osemele at left guard, Hudson at center, Jackson at right guard and either Howard or Watson at right tackle.
The quintet is massive, standing an average of 6-foot-2 and 322 pounds. They’re big and aggressive and should meld well with highly-touted offensive line coach Mike Tice.
Assuming Howard the wins an offseason competition, each starting lineman should be considered quality options at their respective positions. Jackson and Osemele are road graders on the interior, which should help in the run game. Hudson is a cerebral, athletic man in the middle. Penn has a track record of success on the blind side and Howard is fresh off a strong season.
Tice told the San Francisco Chronicle that Howard (knee) and Watson (Achilles tear) are rehabbing well. The group could round out with reserve guard/center Jon Feliciano and tackle Matt McCants.
There’s injury protection, but the front five could be among the NFL’s best. That should improve a run game that stalled too often last year and keep Derek Carr clean.
The team’s franchise quarterback is good at avoiding sacks, but should have time to function well.
That's resulted in an early nickname for this group. Fans call the line “Carr insurance” with plenty of memes to go with it.
It’s an encouraging sign that McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio are willing to invest up front. They’re spending $33.16 million on the front five this season, a heavy sum due to a set of hired hands. Importing veteran offensive linemen has worked well, and there’s extreme confidence Osemele will continue excellent play.
That big investment tells the team something. It values line play, and understands that skill players are only productive when given time to work.
“Going through the roster, I kind of saw what everybody was saying, and the emphasis on building the offensive line, coming from a place where [it’s] not really appreciated, you know?” Osemele said. “Coming to a team where offensive line play is a focus and it matters and they want to build that up, that was a big factor.”
Wanna see what the name “Carr Insurance,” some free time and photo editing software can come up with? Here you go: