Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will analyze each position group leading up to Raiders training camp, which starts on July 29.
General manager Reggie McKenzie had no problem spending significant funds building a big, bad offensive line. He gave tackle Austin Howard a big contract back in 2014. He made center Rodney Hudson one of the highest paid centers in 2015 and backed up the Brinks truck for guard Kelechi Osemele a few months back. He ponied up to re-sign Donald Penn this offseason.
The Raiders got what they paid for, and should have one of the NFL’s largest, toughest offensive fronts. Quarterback Derek Carr is the offense’s true leader, but this group should pace a unit that could be explosive when given time to work.
Carr had plenty of that last year, but the run game wasn’t consistent enough. The aim is to shore up weaknesses and grow as a unit during training camp, to maximize this group’s immense potential.
- LT Donald Penn
- LG Kelechi Osemele
- C Rodney Hudson
- RG Gabe Jackson
- RT Austin Howard
- RT Menelik Watson
- OT Matt McCants
- G/C Jon Feliciano
- G/T Vadal Alexander
- G Oni Omoile
- G Mitch Bell
- G Terran Vaughn
- C Ross Burbank
- OT Torian White
1. Who starts at right tackle?
There will be few true position battles waged in Napa this summer, but right tackle should be a goody. Austin Howard and Menelik Watson are evenly matched heading into the preseason, with both players recovering from injury. Watson missed the 2015 season with a torn Achilles’ tendon, and Howard needed knee surgery after an injury late last season. Howard was a solid pass protector after Watson went down, but must fend off the athletic young buck looking to lock down a starting spot after three years plagued by injury. This is a pick ‘em race at this point, but a leader will emerge in camp after Howard was hobbled during the offseason program.
2. Can Osemele kick start Raiders run game?
Let’s start by saying that rushing the football is a true team effort, from the front to the backfield. Osemele is just one man, but he could give the ground game a real kick. He’s one of the NFL’s best interior run blockers, and is a nasty, physical presence who fits perfectly in this scheme. Osemele must work well with athletic center Rodney Hudson and left tackle Donald Penn on the left to create the wiggle room required for Latavius Murray to make steady gains and big plays alike.
3. Will O-line live up to the hype?
The Raiders are considered among the league’s top three offensive lines based on last year’s results, additions like Osemele and the potential of a new group affectionately dubbed “Carr Insurance.” They have the talent to excel and control tempo up front with a physical style of play, but line play is about five members playing together. This group must continue fostering chemistry during camp to realize great potential.