As the 2011 Oakland Raiders continue to fill in the blanks that were created when they released their head-scratching “final” 53-man roster, several questions still remain -- not the least of which is, are these starting five offensive linemen really going to cut it? Have no fear, for you are about to be hand delivered the answer to perhaps this most daunting question of all.
One of the most difficult tasks facing this Raiders’ offensive line this season is going to be learning how to deal with a 3-4 blitzing scheme such as the one they will face in the home opener against the New Jersey Jets. Trouble is that when your defense is a 4-3 base defense, the scheme is completely and utterly different from that 3-4. In the 4-3 you have four guys who rush nearly every down and perhaps one blitzing skill player every now and then. Meanwhile, in the 3-4, you have three steady linemen rushing the play and two linebackers who could come from various different directions.
Fortunately for the Raiders, they have a lot of game tape from last season in Hue Jackson’s offense so they can go back and remember what it is like to play against those defenses. In 2010, they played against 3-4 defenses 10 times, including six against divisional opponents, which leads me to my next point. Their division is heavy on the 3-4 defense, so they will get even more exposure to it this year. Last season, all three teams in their division attempted to run a base 3-4, and this season only the Denver Broncos have given up on it with newly acquired head coach John Fox.
The next diagnosis upon further inspection is that this offensive line has a benefit that not many in the league have at their disposal. They have to practice against one of the best four man defensive lines in the game including Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaughnessy, and Lamarr Houston. Earlier this offseason, these four men were discussed as the best defensive line in the AFC West. But I’m going to take it a step further and say they are one of the best units in the AFC, if not the NFL, and they are coached by perhaps the best mind in the NFL in D-Line Coach Mike Waufle.
Practicing against this unit in live drills every single day should make the offensive line's improvement sky rocket. While veterans Khalif Barnes, Samson Satele, and Cooper Carlisle may not need the extra motivation, rookie Stefen Wisniewski and second year left tackle Jared Veldheer will need all the help they can get from being pushed to the brink by these talented athletes. I also want to put a spotlight on fifth and sixth defensive linemen Trevor Scott and Jarvis Moss. Their speed on the outside edge is going to help the Raider offensive tackles learn to deal with the speed of outside linebackers in that 3-4 I was talking about earlier.
If we go back in time for a minute, one of the biggest questions on deck in the offseason was: Do the Raiders need to bring in more offensive linemen, or can they work with what they have? The answer to this question lies in the hands of newly hired offensive line coach Bob Wylie and his assistant and long-time Raiders All-Pro, Steve Wisniewski.
The fact that these two coaches weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to make the organization bring in more talent for them to work with says a lot about how they feel about the guys they have. People often overlook the fact that Khalif Barnes was a starting left tackle for four seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars while they were a decent NFL playoff caliber team. Veldheer in his second season is going to be an upgrade over Veldheer in his rookie season. Samson Satele is a fifth year starting center -- third with the Silver and Black. And Cooper Carlisle was getting it done at the ripe old age of 34. Over the past six seasons, Carlisle has only missed one game, while starting in a whopping 95 for the Raiders and his former team, the Denver Donkeys.
The Raiders have a decent NFL starting five and the development of second year player Bruce Campbell as well as the addition of veteran free agent offensive tackle Stephon Heyer gives them a little depth behind that front five. Add to that the holdover of Daniel Loper to back up the interior and the versatility of certain players and you have a nice mix here.
Don’t take this the wrong way, because there are currently about 20 NFL offensive lines that you would want in front of this one, but we do have potential here.
One of the things that is going to make all of the difference for this unit in the upcoming season is whether rookie left guard, Wisniewski, can fill the shoes of 2004 second overall pick Robert Gallery. It’s clear that Hue Jackson and his staff are ready to go all-in on Wiz Jr at this position. To his credit, Wisniewski said prior to the draft that he would prefer to play guard at the next level. Evidently, the Raiders realized that he may have been spot on with his analysis of himself. Granted, he did only play one season at center for Penn State.
If there is one thing for certain in this positional uncertainty, it is that the youngster has the right pedigree to play this position to its fullest. His uncle turned coach, Steve, was a two-time All-American guard for Penn State, and eight-time Pro Bowler and NFL All-Pro who was named to the 1990’s NFL All-Decade team. Stefen is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Raiders’ legend, although he does have a one-up on his uncle right out of the gate, the fact that he was selected by the Raiders in the draft to be coached up by his uncle.
All in all, several factors are going to play into whether or not this line finds success in the near future. However, there are about a half dozen things that they already have going for them that other developing units do not have on their side. If the Raiders can get this unit to gel and become cohesive, it is a unit that could lead them to an AFC West crown.
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my problem with barnes is i personally believe he wants back on that left side where he was in jacksonville, so he can perform like he did there and get the big payday like he didn't there! he's not happy on the right
Just a quick note to all the UK guys on here that the Denver game is live on ESPN..... at 3:15am!!!!
I've been waiting 2 years for Oakland to play on a Monday...............! Finally the ESPN subscription pays off ;)
@ChristopherMooney It's just awesome aint it?! I got my 13 year old son also wanting to watch it live with me!!!! Now do I be a responsible parent and say no????. F*ck that - we're Raider fans here right?! One bleary eyed day at work and school will be worth it if we win at Mile High..... bring it on - Go Raiders!!!!!
@BretArmstrong Not sure what that means Bret. If it means Tivo or Hard drive recording forget it. You just cant beat a live Raiders game.
I think they'll be at least as good as second half of last year. Probably better. Which is winning football.
Plus, unlike last year, we have two hungry, young guys, biting at the starters heels, pressurising for playing time. I fully expect both Campbell and Barksdale to be pushing HARD for starting slots by week 10.
I actually happen to agree with you. In fact I'd go further.
I'm pretty happy with Oakland's O line. Why?
1: They played pretty well the second half of last season.
2: There's much more depth there now. Hungry players, who are fully capable of stepping in, and performing, if guys aren't doing their job.
3: They're very very well coached. A good line coach (look at Chicago) can win games using just about anyone. They may not be able to give you the best line in the league, but they'll do enough to make sure it's functioning. Oakland were one of the the worst in the league, on the line, first half of the season. After 8 weeks training, they were one of the better units. Great coaching.
4: Jason Campbell actually looked pretty damn good/comfortable in the pre season. Much better than last year. The starting line hardly gave up any sacks at all. The guy was completing 70% of his throws, and looks to have moved on considerably from last year. A good QB, who knows the system, helps the line. Look at the Colts. Without doubt one of the most talentless lines in the league. Peyton Manning is one of the least sacked QBs in the league every single freaking year.............!
What I'm saying is, Oakland's problems aren't going to be offense based if you ask me. I see that being a position of strength. I'd be more worried about the D
where'd you hear that Harder? he's better than Sheppard at least.
very uplifting article Bret. but still, *SIGH*. .. you know my stance on this matter. maybe i was wrong about Veldheer, but i know i'm not wrong about Satele and Carlisle. you can say all you want about Barnes, but if he stalls any promising drives where we have a defense on their heals, then he NEEDS TO GO. I do believe all three can make wonderful backups for this team.. I just hold out hope for the young bucks to take their place.
the fact of the matter is, we need heavier men up front to execute this power blocking scheme to it's fullest. it wont take long to realize that Bruce and Heyer should be in their place, and if Wiz is dead set on LG, then we need to find another Center in next years draft or FA. they just get pushed back way too often. I don't take much good or bad out of preseason, so the fact that Jason stayed clean against not-so-great pass rushing teams like ARZ, SF,NO, and SEA doesn't tell me a whole lot. we'll see, i hope i'm wrong, because our crown as you say, heavily depends on it. this passing game can GET OFF in a big way if they can give JC a steady pocket... with a well balanced offense, we will win a lot of games.
I agree. But big difference from last year is guys like Carlisle, Satale, Barnes have decent, potential starters, putting a lot of pressure on them for their jobs.
Last year we were completely stuck with our line. They were as good as it got. Nobody to come in.
Difference this year is, if any of these guys don't perform, they're probably out, and cut................and you'll have guys like Campbell and Heyer MORE than ready to step in.
I actually expect Campbell to be starting pretty soon. I think he'll beat one of these guys out
@ChristopherMooney yea you're right about the depth. for sure it's for real this year. that's a very big difference than the last decade even! I really hope Barksdale can start to really come into his own early on and take over for Barnes. false starting will not help this offense at all ... we have seen ENOUGH OF IT lately ...
yea big Bruce will most likely take over ... can't wait for that. the man is a tower!
on the flipside, look at CHI last year. HORRIBLE OLINE but they made it to the championship game. going back to PIT's OL when they won their last SB, they had plenty of question marks. its all about scheme i guess...
@Harder2000 well yea that' was supposed to be my point in that statement. we have a potentially way tougher OL than the Squeelers in the making here, it just depends when certain guys are going to step it up.... I truly wish that it happened sooner rather than later. but we probably aren't that lucky. Satele and Carlisle can hold their own against weaker DL's... the ones they are facing this year are way more hardcore. this much is obvious. we'll just have to see.
JC needs a clean pocket... plain and simple. much like the most successful QBs do throughout the league. Campbell needs to try and throw better on the run if he wants to avoid sacks more often. he might stay healthier that way. will he get it? probably not.... but he definitely showed the ability last year when he took off for first downs. we wouldn't see these types of plays in preseason obviously, but JUST MAYBE the continued system he's in will allow him to improve upon that aspect of his game.
@DARKKUSH Steelers Oline was injured last year, only 1-2 starters almost the entire season, so it can be done! .. But Big Ben is one of the best when avoiding the rush: JC is not! Need to get the run going for us, get some protection for JC, and we will be good, but against the tougher teams we will struggle unless we get some power (Heyer, Barks or Bruce) and they Gel - Lions for one will kill us if we dont!
@DARKKUSH Btw, agree with the assessment of the Powerline! Hope Heyer and Bruce can take over! Can't stand Barnes' penalties and rookie mistakes, an adequate back-up, nothing more imo!
Can better accept Carlisle as he seldom draws a flag, but the middle lacks in power, and added strength at RG seems to be the best bet of a possible change inside..
@DARKKUSH SORRY - just saw he became a Panther, was a bad report, sorry!