Potential Starters: Jared Veldheer, Daniel Loper, Samson Satele, Bruce Campbell, Langston Walker
If the Raiders are going to build on their 8 wins in 2010 then they’ve got to start with the foundation – the offensive line. Having a competent quarterback means nothing if Jason Campbell isn’t able to get into his drop without the constant fear of seeing opposing pass rushers in his grill all day long on Sundays. Having a healthy Darren McFadden and a productive Michael Bush means nothing if there is nobody up front opening holes and getting downfield to create running lanes.
In short, the Raiders will only go as far as the O-line carries them.
The Tennessee Titans quickly exposed the weakest link on the roster in last season’s painful opener. From there things slowly improved and it is not coincidence that the improvement followed when Jared Veldheer inherited the left tackle job.
Perhaps if it weren’t for the head scratching experiment with Veldheer at center, the rookie would have made a more seamless transition from small college ball to the pros. None the less the 6’8” rookie steadily improved as the year progressed and has etched his name in stone as the starting left tackle.
But beyond Veldheer the rest of the line is one big question mark.
Jared will be without his partner in the trenches on the left side of the line as Robert Gallery was given a very unceremonious exit from the East Bay. The Raiders inked Daniel Loper as an insurance policy but he’s not the long term solution.
As for the middle of the line, the fact that Veldheer was given the nod over Samson Satele coming out of camp about says it all. To his credit Satele did find success in run blocking last season but was routinely abused in the passing game by stronger nose tackles. The center position is one that you can be assured will be addressed in the draft.
On the right side of the line there are two more job openings. Cooper Carlisle just cannot be an option any longer. No disrespect to the vet but he’s starting to get into that Cornell Green category of being an inexplicable starter. Al Davis has spoken highly of Bruce Campbell and the workout warrior of the 2010 draft will have a great chance to earn himself a starting gig.
Finally we come to right tackle…a position that really has no solution at the moment.
Mario Henderson couldn’t hack it on the left side, had some OK moments on the right side but is more than likely on the outside looking in as it seems unlikely he’ll be back next season. Langston Walker might have been the best bet on the right side but that isn’t saying much. He had his moments but this is another short term solution.
Offensive Line Stock Grade: D+
Potential Draftees: Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State; Marcus Cannon, TCU; Ryan Bartholomew, Syracuse
Wisniewski has got to be near the top of Al’s wish list. Never mind the name, Stefen has the game. He’s got good size, finishes blocks and is capable of playing both center and guard at the next level. There’s a good chance he’ll still be on the board for Oakland’s first pick at number 48. However given his reputation there is always the chance another team will jump on Wisniewski before Davis does.
Cannon is the type of guy you want protecting your QB. Don’t let his 350-pound frame fool you, this guy is an athlete. He’s strong and mobile and could be Oakland’s best bet in round two. Cannon has drawn plenty of praise for his workouts so you can believe he’s all over Al’s radar.
Bartholomew wasn’t on too many draft lists until he turned heads at the combine. He’s a natural athlete but lacks the ideal size for an NFL lineman. He could be there for the taking in round seven or Bartholomew could be a UFA invite to camp. Really depends on how much teams value him for his upside.