Sep 23, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as Oakland Raiders center Stefan Wisniewski (61) snaps the ball against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 37-21. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
I think the O-Line is the second most important aspect of an offense. The Raiders could have 4 new guys manning the line. Two they acquired via free agency, Left Tackle Donald Penn and Right Tackle Austin Howard. Austin lined up at Right Guard during OTA’s and mini camp. They drafted Left Guard Gabe Jackson out of Mississippi St. in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Menelik Watson, who they picked in the second round of the 2013 draft, is expected to man the Right Tackle position. Last year the line was decimated by injuries. When you look at o-lines that are successful, they usually have not had any injuries and spent the offseason and training camp jelling together, working as one unit. Hopefully we can get that out of this group.
Donald Penn has had success in the NFL, but the knock on him has been conditioning. If he can come into camp in shape and not lose his focus, he can be a solid addition to the Silver and Black. He is a Southern California native and I think playing so close to home has rejuvenated his desire and we will see him have a pro-bowl season. Gabe Jackson is a stud. He started every game of his four year career in college and didn’t give up a sack his last two seasons. All this in the big bad SEC. No pressure Gabe, but I’m tempted to nickname you Baby Upshaw. Austin Howard started the last two seasons at Right Tackle for the NY Jets, but is expected to be moved to Right Guard for the Raiders.
It will be interesting to see how he takes to the new position. Although he only gave up two sacks last year for the Jets, the man he is replacing, Mike Brisiel, didn’t give up one sack in 2013 for the Raiders. I think Austin is a solid addition, but it remains to be seen how he develops in his new role. The Raiders added depth with the signing of Kevin Boothe, who can play both guard positions and center. Barnes is signed for another. He can play guard, sometimes he can play tackle. I’m thinking the Raiders should sign back Tony Pashos to solidify the depth on this squad. If they don’t sign him or any other free agents, that would signal faith in young reserves Tony Bergstrom, Lamar Mady, Matt McCants, Jack Cornell, Jarrod Shaw, Lucas Nix etc. to show they can be counted on this year. I want to note that our Center, Baby Wiz, per ProFootballFocus.com improved his overall play last year, going from being ranked 17th in 2012 to ranked 11th in 2013. In the last two seasons, he has not given up a sack and allowed only 4 hits on the QB, along with 15 QB pressures. Hopefully he can continue his consistent growth and be the driver of a formidable line this year with the help of the new additions. I’m expecting solid play from this group in 2014.