Raiders’ Offensive Tackles Face Tough Matchups Along the Edge
With the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft the Texans selected former South Carolina edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, and just four picks later the Raiders selected Mack. Clowney’s injuries have delayed his NFL stardom; Mack has quickly established himself as one of the top edge-rushers in the country.
Their paths will cross for the first time on Monday Night Football in Mexico City.
In 2014, Clowney missed the Texans’ Week 2 matchup against Oakland, but now two years removed from his rookie campaign, he should be looking to prove why he was worthy of the No. 1 overall selection.
With 34 combined tackles and three sacks in nine games this season, Clowney is expected to surpass career highs in both categories barring a drop in production or an injury.
Opposite of Clowney, veteran edge-rusher Whitney Mercilus has brought in 17 combined tackles and a team-high 4.5 sacks.
According to PFF.com, Mercilus has graded out as the 10th best edge-rusher through 10 weeks.
With Clowney and Mercilus pinning their ears back for a majority of the contest, the Raiders’ passing attack will hinge on the ability of their offensive tackles.
With Penn still playing at a Pro Bowl level, Carr’s blind side still remains safe, but the Raiders’ right tackle position is less secure.
Veteran offensive tackle Austin Howard has seen a majority of the reps on the right side, but even he will need backup offensive lineman Denver Kirkland to line up at tight end to perform damage control along the edge.
Kirkland, an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas, has filled in at tight end this season in wake of veteran Lee Smith’s season-ending ankle injury. In doing so, Oakland is often without an extra receiving threat inside the hashes, but he has performed well in pass protection.
Look for Kirkland to play a significant role in preventing either Mercilus or Clowney from taking advantage of the right side of the Raiders’ offensive line.