With all the woe is me going on in Oakland, I figured to share some good news for Raider Nation.
First things first, Reggie McKenzie did a great job in the 2014 NFL Draft. From late round gems like TJ Carrie and Shelby Harris, to first round pick Khalil Mack, Reggie hit a home run.
One of my favorite picks from this year’s draft was the big man Gabe Jackson out of Mississippi State. Jackson was an absolute steal in the draft and a player I had rated as the top guard in the draft.
The 6’3, 336lb Jackson was a dominant run blocker in college playing in the tough SEC. Jackson fit the new power blocking scheme of the Raiders, who were very lucky to land him in the 3rd round.
In 2013 Oakland’s offensive line was atrocious at times, especially at the guard positions. This offseason’s overhaul showed what Reggie and the Raider’s staff thought about last year’s OLine, with only Stefen Wisniewski and Khalif Barnes brought back. Wiz will hopefully bounce back from an injury plagued 2013, and Barnes as more of a stop-gap, versatile veteran rather than a true starter in my opinion.
Coming into training camp, Gabe Jackson was going to be in competition with the ever versatile Khalif Barnes at the left guard position. So far Jackson has more than proven he not only belongs in the NFL, but deserves to be the starter on this rebuilt Raiders OLine.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Jackson has had positive ratings of 2.7, 1.0, and 1.3 in all three preseason games. Whats more impressive has been his pass blocking, which was supposed to be the knock against him coming out of college. Jackson has held his own in both pass pro and in the run game, while also avoiding costly penalties.
“He’s real powerful,” Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson said of Jackson, who has a chance to be a starter early. “He’s got excellent feet. He’s an excellent puller. On the double-teams, he’s extremely powerful.” ESPN Bill Williamson
I see no reason to keep Jackson out of the starting lineup. This OLine has had its trouble at times, but I attribute that more to lack of unit cohesiveness rather than lack of talent. This OLine can be very good and just needs time to gel. Jackson should start at Left Guard, allowing Barnes to be who he is. A versatile backup who can fill in at both guard or tackle.
With Mack already solidified as a starter, and whispers of Derek Carr poised to start sometime this season, the Raiders could be looking at three impact starters with their first three picks.
The time is now for these young rookies and the Raiders need impact from this draft class now more than ever.