In 2017, the Oakland Raiders offensive line is one of the most highly compensated units in the league. They are also one of the only all black starting-fives in the NFL.
How have they performed on the field through 12 weeks of the 2017 NFL season?
It may sound cliché’ but everything on offense starts up front. Thus, the success of an offense adds layers of context to the performance of an offensive line.
The Silver and Black offensive line received a ton of credit for an offense that ranked sixth in yards per game for 2016. Expectations were even higher with another season of experience playing together, a few fat contract extensions and veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse stabilizing the right side.
However, this unit ranks 16th in total offense yards per game, 21st in points per game and 25th in total rushing yards. Thus far, those are all step backs from 2016.
Some of that falls on the change at offensive coordinator, drops at receiver and injuries across the offensive line. The offense has used less play action passes and instituted less power run plays.
Overall, the only place the Raiders have not dropped in rankings from 2016, is the passing game. They are at 16, which is where they were at the end of 2016. This is credit to an offensive line that allows the sixth fewest sacks (18) and the least amount of QB hits (29) through 12 weeks.
Additionally, Football Outsiders has the Raiders ranked 12th in adjusted line yards. This run metric attributes value to the offensive line based on gained yards compared to the average runner. They are also sixth in adjusted sack rate, based on sack rate adjusted for down, distance and opponent. They were 11th and first in those respective categories last season.
There are few units with the size, stature, explosiveness, and overall athletic profile of this entire Raiders starting offensive line. One on one, each of these players has the strength to win at the POA versus most defenders.
As a whole, this unit has incredible competitive toughness. They consistently play physical, regardless of the situation and they have earned a reputation for finishing blocks. You will see many of them running downfield on big plays too.
The group communicates well pre-snap and executes assignments in both run and pass blocking versus various fronts. They execute slide protections and pocket protections as well as zone and power running schemes.
They show good play speed when picking up blitzes or stunts in pass pro and reaching the second level in the running game. The offensive line shows good processing to execute fakes and very good play speed to get down field to block more athletic defenders on screens and draws.
Oakland’s guards are both good at pulling up into the hole, processing where the defender is, and attacking him with balance and power. Also in zone blocking, the Raiders are good at making contact on double teams and working up to the backside linebacker.
Once they engage, they are great about using their hands to control opponents in both run and pass. They also use good play strength to drive defenders both vertically and horizontally depending on the play call.
In pass protection, they are good with their hands. Collectively they are very good at punch timing and placement to neutralize defenders. They are usually quick out of their stance and maintain balance. This group is mentally aware to keep defenders from influencing the pocket as well. As a unit, they are good at riding overly aggressive rushers past the quarterback or into the rest of the line.
A defender with a very good get off and good hands can beat them to the gap and cause the line to whiff before penetrating the backfield on a run play.
In outside zone, they can struggle with the play speed to reach defenders at the line of scrimmage due to foot speed and angles. They can get lazy with backside cut blocks on the backside too.
This offensive line can struggle generating push versus defenders with very good play strength and anchor. Their pad level will get high which will stalemate push at the line of scrimmage in goal line situations.
They can also struggle against good nose tackles and play side backers on zone plays.
In pass protection, a fast defender can beat the off the ball and get them off balance. An interior rusher with good hands can counter the guards leaning in pass pro. Edge Rushers with good lean can avoid the lines punches or good counter moves can also beat tackles when their feet and hands stop.
They can miss outside blitzes and stunts from safeties and corners. They may also cost themselves in penalties by being overly aggressive when finishing blocks, blocking down field or not letting go of a defender.
Ultimately, the Oakland Raiders offensive line is still among one of the league’s best. They have yet to live up to the elite expectations entering the season. They are still very good but they have not been elite consistently.
Some of that falls on play calling and execution from the other six players on the field. Nonetheless, it appears they are beginning to find their rhythm, as is the entire Raiders offense.
Oakland did not allow a single sack versus the Giants last week. The o-line helped the offense surpass the 100-yard rushing mark each of the past three weeks.
This newfound success in the running game seems expected, as run blocking should improve as the season goes on and the offensive lines grow cohesive. It appears the Raiders finally have Gabe Jackson healthy and Donald Penn seems to have played himself into shape (Although he might have injured himself versus the Giants).
They were a large part why the Raiders started the season slow. Despite the big paydays for both of them, neither played well to start the season. The chemistry also seemed off potentially due to Penn’s holdout or Carr’s religious belief (if you believe Miko Grimes). Still, this unit allowed eight sacks through the first four weeks.
Otherwise, Rodney Hudson and Kelechi Osemele have been two of the best players at their position. Newhouse has been surprisingly consistent too.
Hence, the Raiders have earned themselves a B+ grade. They might be one of the team’s best units but high expectations entering this year and the regression of the offense as a whole keep them out of the A range.
The good news is that the season is not over and this unit can easily play themselves into elite status again over the next four games.