This offseason one of the biggest question marks was the offensive line. The Raiders had a few suspect positions and it appeared the team had lost much more than they gained in personnel. But as it turns out, that looks not to be the case. Two of the most important additions are assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski and his nephew Stefen, whom the Raiders chose with their top draft pick.
The Raiders drafted Stefen with thoughts of him being the Raiders' next great center. But he did not progress the way the coaching staff had hoped, and it was decided that incumbent starter Samson Satele returning at the position was the best choice.
But while Stefen was not able to beat out Satele at center, he was able to beat out the guy whom the Raiders had signed in the offseason to replace former starter Robert Gallery at left guard. In fact, Wiz kid made Loper expendable entirely, and the Raiders waived him in the last round of cuts.
Stefen played at both center and guard at Penn State and many thought he made a better guard than he did a center. Thus far, that is proving to be the case.
There is nothing at all wrong with Stefen excelling at guard instead of center. It is actually a position the Raiders are quite used to having a Wisniewski play. Stefen's uncle Steve was an All Pro left guard for the Raiders and now he is not only following in his uncle's footsteps but getting mentored by his uncle along the way.
Stefen is quick to recognize his coaching as a reason for his and his linemates' solid play this season.
"I think a lot of it has to do with coaching. Coach Wylie and Coach Wisniewski are doing a great job getting us all on the same page, and the techniques they're teaching us are really paying off, and I think everyone's really bought into what they're teaching, and we're just really working together well. We're communicating well, kinda got a good camaraderie going between us."
I would be remiss if I did not mention the job that offensive line coach Bob Wylie is doing with this group. Wylie has been able to have the kind of success with this offensive line that former head coach and offensive line coach Tom Cable never could.
Under Cable, the Raiders ran a zone blocking scheme and that scheme typically favors the running backs. However, Darren McFadden was never able to break out for the Raiders. It wasn't really until the team began shifting back to the power blocking scheme that McFadden began to thrive. Now he is enjoying having these blockers in front of him as much as they enjoy blocking for him.
"It's fun," says Stefen Wisniewski. "Shoot, you block [McFadden] for two seconds and you look and he's 50 yards downfield. It makes our job easy. Sometimes we make him look good, we open a big hole, and other times we miss a couple of people but he makes us look good anyway. So it works out well for everybody."
The confidence of this offensive line is extremely high after they have been able to block for McFadden to lead the league with 393 yards rushing over the first three games. They are also pretty proud of only giving up two sacks on Jason Campbell.
I asked Stefen if he has been surprised at how well the offensive line is playing this season.
"Nah, this is what we expected," he replied. "We know what we have here. Coach Jackson has been talking that we know what we gave, we believe in ourselves and it was just a matter of trying to get everyone else to see that, and this was a first step towards that and next week against the Patriots will be another step towards that."
When Steve Wisniewski retired back in 2001, it seemed like the end of an era of Hall of Fame caliber left guard play. That era appears to have begun again with another Wisniewski. A new generation of fans will have the pleasure of watching a Wisniewski plow the way along the offensive line for the Raiders.
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I was really concerned that the OL would be the biggest weakness on this team (as I think almost everyone did), but they have turned out to be one of the biggest strengths so far. Wiz 2.0 is already as good as, if not better, than Gallery was at any point in his career with us. If the defense can start playing better on a consistent basis, this team could go a long way.
Sterling Moore replaced by Ron Parker (S) on the PS - guess it comes as no surprise to anyone that Ron Parker (just released from Seahawks PS) was the fastest Safety in this years draft!
He is 6'0", runs a 4.35 40 yard to go with his weight of 206 lbs! Dude can run!
Still think Moore (who was just cut outright) will be elevated to the active roster this week in the place of Miller - no risk in cutting him as any team could sign him from our PS to their active 53 anyway, just as we can sign him from any PS that could potentially sign him before he is elevated to our active 53!
Just speculation, but makes sense as he is a local who has done a good job in practice and in pre-season - while several of our DBs has nagging injuries (CJ, DVD, Huff) and we are about to face an angry Tom Brady who is on a record pace for passing!
it was the area that scaired me the most heading into the season, but they fooled the ---- out of me thus far.
@Harder2000 that sucks about Moore. yea the man deserves another shot. he had some good instincts for the ball and Brady threw 4 interceptions last week.. maybe throwing in an unknown player would help our chances in duplicating that performance by the Bills. kudos to them BTW... i don't feel so bad about losing to them.
@Harder2000 Brady needs to stay off of the field for us to win. If we can run like that against the Jets, we SURE AS HELL are going to do it to the Pats. if we mix in some great passing along with a 100% DMC, Bush, and a hopefully healthy Reece, we should RIP THEIR D APART! do not give them a break, make them earn every tackle and feel every hit from our backs ... THE BULLY IS HERE! when Tom takes the field, this Raider D needs to limit him in the short passing game. that means taking Welker out of the equation(yea right!) ...
@massillonraider Me too - hope they can keep it up and get even better as they mesh together more as a unit! Great potential! Think Big Barks is just a couple of games away from becoming the starter at RT as he has been subbed in more each game! Wonder how far behind B Campbell is?!
@DARKKUSH I think you're right, and i am pretty sure that is the gameplan! Let's hope that Haynesworth is not ready, cause Vince is already a lot of man to block in there! We really have a speed advantage as well though, so getting D-Mac on the outside should be a priority as both he and Reece can run circles around the LB corps and still beat them to the Endzone - which should show up in points and big plays!
Bills are an improved team, but they only won against us because we didn't finish, started getting nervous and Chuckie started throwing in some of the Prevent crap in the end..
Against the Pats it was due to good playing on the ball with 4 ints, but in neither game should they have been able to do the comeback! Kudos indeed, but mis-cudos to us and the Pats for throwing a sealed deal away!
A win against the Pats could do miracles for this team - confidence, fire, belief and will to win the division would follow! Important games! But we need to take Brady "as we know him" out - shake him up and rattle him!
Could see Woodhead as a threat as well, as he is too shifty for our LBs to cover, lets hope Death Ro takes him out Sproles style early!
If MIA can beat the weak Dolts at home as well, then we would be really good!