Reggie McKenzie’s players will be on the field
November 24, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski (61) prepares to snap the football during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at O.co Coliseum. The Titans defeated the Raiders 23-19. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
When it comes to building a decent football team you need to focus first on the trenches. GM Reggie McKenzie has been laying a foundation for a good to great offensive line since he took over, and this offensive line will carry the Raiders into the future and help bring success. One important thing to note, an offensive line cannot be built-in one season. It takes several attempts and errors before the pieces are in place that work cohesive. We’ve seen the errors, now comes the cohesiveness.
Digging deep, back to 2006, the Oakland Raiders drafted Offensive Lineman Kevin Boothe out of Cornell. Although he left the team and played for other teams, Boothe has returned to the Raiders roster as a very able backup to Center Stefen Wisniewski, and Boothe can be utilized as a Guard if need be.
2011 brought the great Stefen Wisniewski to anchor the offensive line at Center for years to come. He has proven to be dependable, and each year he has developed to be better and better. This may be the year that the NFL recognizes him as a Pro Bowl caliber Center, and the first year that Wis will crack the Top 100 players of 2014.
Next, the first NFL Draft for the McKenzie era began in 2012. Their first pick was in the 3rd round (the other picks were given away by Hue Jackson to acquire QB Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals, and Al Davis had also given away other picks prior to his death in 2011), a Tackle, Tony Bergstrom out of Utah. Bergstrom is still on the team despite his struggles to be an offensive tackle in the NFL. However, Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano has converted Bergstrom to a Guard, and this seems to be working out better for him. Bergstrom also played as a Center and Long Snapper in Preseason this year.
In 2013, the Raiders wasted no time at finding their pure athletic Tackle in Menelik Watson. Watson was drafted in the 2nd round, but he suffered an injury in Training Camp, and he was unable showcase his talent in 2013. However, this season, Watson has secured himself as the Right Tackle in this newly worked over offensive line, and the Raiders hope that he will eventually take over at Left Tackle.
Of course we all know who the next left guard will be, and he is the Raiders 3rd Round pick in 2014. Gabe Jackson has already proven he can be a starter in the NFL by his performances in all 4 Preseason games. Watson, Wisniewski, and Jackson make up the future of the Raiders offensive line for years to come.
Add in the Free Agent acquisitions (Donald Penn and Austin Howard) and the ever-present Khalif Barnes, and this offensive line will become cohesive a lot sooner than later. The road graders are in place to push opposing defenses around.