Without blocking there are no great quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, or tight ends. There are no stellar plays that make NFL Films. It all begins in the trenches, and the trenches are the Oakland Raiders offensive line. Last year was a year to forget. The zone blocking scheme has been flushed down the toilet, and power blocking and power running are back in. We all know that the Raiders should have never veered from the power scheme, but it is what it was and that is no more. With Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson at the helm of the ship, the offensive scheme is being built around the players on the roster. This is the right way no matter who starts. Furthermore, Offensive Line Coach/Assistant Head Coach Tony Sparano is in charge of the line itself, and he is doing a great job.
When asked if he liked the way the offensive line has looked so far, Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen said, “I like the way the offensive line has worked. I’ve been real impressed with the way they’ve worked. I’ve been real impressed with the way that Tony Sparano is coaching them. I think they’re coming out and competing, and I think they’re going to be ready to answer the challenge.” Well said of the O-Line in day 7 of Raiders training camp. This is encouraging since we are only 6 1/2 days away from our first pre-season football game.
First year rookie tackle Menelik Watson has not yet been cleared to participate in practice due to an unknown injury he sustained prior to training camp. This is unfortunate for him, because he was supposed to compete for the starting right tackle position. Since he hasn’t been able to go, Alex Barron has stepped up his game and he has been giving Khalif Barnes a run for his money. When asked if Barron was in the mix for the starting right tackle position, Coach Allen stated, “Well I think we’re going to let that thing play out, but obviously I’ve been impressed with the things Alex Barron has done and that’s been a nice surprise for us. He’s a guy that’s kind of getting that second chance and he’s taking advantage of it.”
Left tackle is more or less secured by fourth year veteran Jared Veldheer. Veldheer did a nice job of protecting Carson Palmer last year which contributed to over 4000 yards of passing. I don’t know who will be under center at the start of 2013, but, whoever the quarterback is, he will be happy to know that Veldheer is there. He also does a pretty nice job of power blocking, which was evident in 2011 under Head Coach Hue Jackson. Currently, there aren’t any other tackles on the roster who will challenge for the starting job.
The same can be said for center Stefen Wisniewski. Although, it was thought that the Raiders might move Wisniewski to right guard when they brought in All-Pro Andre Gurode, Coach Dennis Allen confirmed that Wisniewski is the center. He was asked on Thursday, August 1, if he envisioned Wisniewski playing anywhere other than center and he stated, “No. I think he’s done a nice job at the center position. All we’re working on is that Stefen Wisniewski is our starting center, and he’s done a nice job there.” Wisniewski has done the job at center, and he should remain the anchor of the offensive line. When I was at practice on Tuesday, July 30th, I asked Wisniewski if he was going to remain the center and he said, “I hope so, I like it there.” His wishes have been answered.
The right and left guard positions are the biggest questions facing the Oakland Raiders. Lucas Nix was performing really well at left guard, and he had taken more snaps with the first team than Tony Bergstrom. Unfortunately, Nix sustained an injury in practice, and he hasn’t been able to get back in there. Bergstrom once again was given the chance to take over the starting left guard role. Nix is cleared to begin practicing again on Saturday, August 3rd, so he may still get his chance to take back the starting role.
As far as right guard goes it’s anybody’s guess. Mike Brisiel has been struggling to get 100% healthy. This has opened the door for players such as Jason Foster, John Wetzel, Andre Gurode, etc… With both guard positions up for grabs, the competition will only heat up heading into pre-season games. One of the biggest things the Raiders are going to need headed into the regular season is depth. Hopefully the injuries will cease and the Raiders can continue to improve and build through the 2013 season with a full arsenal of offensive linemen.
Topics: Alex Barron, Andre Gurode, Dennis Allen, Greg Olson, Jared Veldheer, Jason Foster, John Wetzel, Khalif Barnes, Lucas Nix, Menelik Watson, Oakland Raiders, Stefen Wisniewski, Tony Bergstrom, Tony Sparano, Training Camp