Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Raiders offensive line needs to step up

Sixth in a series evaluating the Raiders prior to the draft and 2010 season.
Position: Offensive Line

In 2008 the offensive line took a step in the right direction. In 2009 they slid back big time. Line Coach Tom Cable was promoted and three of the five projected starters were injured early. If the Raiders are going to have any success in 2010 the line needs to rebound in a big way.

Left Tackle – Mario Henderson

Henderson was the most stable lineman in 2009 in terms of health and performance and did well protecting the QB considering the Raiders throw deep philosophy. It’s time for Henderson to assert himself as the team’s starting left tackle and shake that journeyman vibe that’s hanging over him.

Left Guard – Robert Gallery, Chris Morris, Langston Walker

Gallery was going to make a run at the pro bowl in 2009 at his newfound home at guard. Instead he missed most of the first half of the year with injury and played the end of the year sparingly with a bad back. Gallery raises Henderson’s play and is the leader on the line. The Raiders need Gallery healthy in 2010. The fact that Oakland started Walker, a tackle who didn’t know the playbook at guard, is all the evidence you need to know they lack depth.

Center – Samson Satele, Chris Morris

Every Raiders team that has played in a Super Bowl has had a big name center. In fact, Barrett Robbins pre Super Bowl meltdown marked the end of the Raiders winning ways. Satele had trouble learning the system and injury issues in 2009. He was often injured in Miami as well. This could be the year he stays healthy and plays well or gets hurt and is labeled ‘fragile’. Chris Morris is the best center-guard back up on the team but not a starter. With the way the Raiders reached in the 2009 draft you kind of wish they’d reached for Alex Mack instead.

Right Guard – Cooper Carlisle, Langston Walker, Brandon Rodd

The Raiders released Carlisle before the 2009 season. After nobody else signed him they brought him back to be a starter. Nothing personal against Carlisle but that implies the Raiders have one of the weakest links in the NFL. The team needs to add power even if it is a zone blocking system. Don’t be shocked to see Cable giving Walker a shot to win the position in camp. Cable often says he wants his best five guys on the field and Walker could fit the bill.

Right Tackle – Khalif Barnes, Eric Pears

Cornell Green is gone. That does not guarantee the position will improve. Barnes was a question mark in 2009 prior to getting hurt and missing the season. Pears most notable duty was as a blocking tight end in power run packages. Walker could play RT but then the team needs help at guard. If Barnes can stay healthy and play better at RT than he did at LT…that’s a lot of question marks. Maybe we’ll hear,“…the Raiders select Trent Williams tackle…” in a few weeks, if we’re lucky.

The Raiders offensive line has several holes and question marks going into the 2010 draft. They’d be wise to draft line help early and often.

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