So, I’m going to try and pull this off without bashing Tom Cable too badly. But there really is no other way around it. When Cable officially inherited the title of head coach one of his first proclamations was that he would return the Raider Way to the East Bay.
To be sure I was a Cable guy from the beginning. I liked the way he made the O-line go from embarrassing to tolerable. He did as good a job as anybody after taking over for Lame Kiffin all things being considered. He even talked about taking the team to the playoffs and damn near did so in his last year on the Alameda sideline.
But for all his promise Cable’s team failed to fulfill the most important task of all – playing more physical and being smarter.
When teams run the ball on your defense its because the front four are getting pushed around like a shopping cart during a Labor Day sale at Wal-Mart. When your QB is constantly under duress and is getting sacked more often than a loose cheerleader after a fifth of gin then it’s because your O-line is being bullied.
Enter Hue Jackson. A man whose football expertise is more closely aligned with the quarterback and running back positions.
While Cable’s bread and butter was the O-line, his unit never played as well as Jackson’s is to date.
Again, I want to keep this debate as fare as possible. Cable made Mario Henderson look like a Hall of Famer for a few weeks in 2008. Beyond that there was little that Cable accomplished with the offensive line that merited high praise. Getting Robert Gallery to switch positions and thrive was impressive but still fails to make up for Gallery’s flop as a franchise left tackle.
Coach Jackson came on board at the right time as Jared Veldheer found his way into a full-time gig at left tackle. As he improves each week Oakland’s bully building process continues to make improvements.
What Jackson has brought to the Raiders in the trenches is what Cable never could. Coach Jackson brings not only the mentality of being a bully but the technique as well.
With penalties against the O-line on a steady decline it shows how focused this unit is each week. Not all of that can be attributed to Coach Jackson but it is telling how much better Samson Satele has thrived since Jackson’s arrival. Cable and Satele seemed a perfect fit as the Hawaiian center relies more on his athletic ability than his strength. However Cable was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with his zone scheme.
Jackson, on the other hand, has allowed Satele to thrive as a mobile center looking to do damage in the open field on screens and other players that allow Samson to operate in space. Just see yesterday’s crushing block delivered on Denarius Moore’s reverse as evidence.
What makes the bully building process even more amazing is how quickly it’s progressing. I was leading the charge of early panic way back in May. To me it seemed impossible to get the offensive line on the same page in such a short amount of time considering the fact that Veldheer was the only man with a certain job prior to the lockout.
Still doing my best not to bash Cable but he had a solid three years to work with the offensive line and never came close to getting the consistent play Jackson and his staff are getting.
Stefen Wisniewski is making a smooth transition from college to the pros as is Khalif Barnes from left to right tackle. And to think Barnes was the worst performer of all in the preseason. Not to mention how uncertain it was if Satele would be back let alone starting ahead of Wisniewski at center.
All the while Jared Veldheer is quietly becoming one of the great steals in recent draft history. But that is something we’re starting to expect from the Silver and Black scouting department. Going all the way back to the 4th round gamble on Michael Bush to the recent gems of Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, the personnel evaluation is among the best in football.
But that is another topic for another day.
Today we’re singing the praises of an offensive line that bullied one of the more feared bullies in the league. Rex Ryan’s defense gets almost as much press as his father’s. It’s not often you see a Ryan unit abused the way they were Sunday.
Most of the credit goes to the men in the tranches who have dedicated themselves to being all that they can be. However a great share of their success can be attributed to Coach Jackson. He’s doing what Cable couldn’t and the Raider Way is well on its way to being restored.