Oakland Raiders “Oldest Roster” Label Belies Youth Movement

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Aug 8, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Oakland Raiders guard Gabe Jackson (66) against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Raiders 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Offensive Line

Old Players: Donald Penn (32), Khalif Barnes (31), Kevin Boothe (31)

Young Players: Gabe Jackson (23), Melenik Watson (25), Matt McCants (25), Stefen Wisniewski (25)

After losing promising young offensive tackle Jared Veldheer in free agency last year, then undergoing a mysterious episode with free agent tackle Roger Saffold, Reggie McKenzie caused many fans and observers to scratch their heads by re-signing veteran offensive tackle Khalif Barnes and going out and getting a trio of veteran free agents, including over-30 players Donald Penn and Kevin Boothe. Donald Penn, a former Pro Bowler, had spent most of his career with the Buccaneers and had struggled mightily in pass coverage in 2013. Reggie then added rookie Gabe Jackson to the mix in the 3rd round of the draft, to go along with last year’s second round pick Melenik Watson and 2013 free agent acquisition Matt McCants as well as young but proven center Stefen Wisniewski.

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While the o-line looks solid and deep for 2014, there are still some questions about the young depth. Wisniewski has proven that he is a starting NFL center and will likely be the Raiders center for some time to come. Gabe Jackson earned a starting job at guard during this preseason, and his bullying style will compliment the Raiders running game nicely. Watson and McCants on the other hand, have struggled to find a place in the lineup.  Watson played a lot of the preseason as the first-string right tackle, but with Jackson taking the starting guard spot, Khalif Barnes has moved back outside to take Watson’s tackle spot. Watson is potentially the Raiders’ hope for the future at the left tackle position, but he may have a long way to go. McCants has never shown that he can be a consistent NFL starting tackle.

Still, with Gabe Jackson and Stefen Wisniewski, along with 27 year old tackle-turned-guard Austin Howard, the Raiders have a good, young interior core on the offensive line, and may be in a position to find young players to replace Barnes and Penn next year should Watson and McCants not develop.