For as much as the game of football has evolved and turned into a spectacle of offensive firepower and extravagance, one thing remains unchanged: Win in the trenches, win the ballgame. Creative coaches can scheme around it. However, at the end of the day, an offense is only as good as the offensive line. This harkens on a serious matter for the Oakland Raiders.
With stout right guard Gabe Jackson nursing a left knee injury — he’s slated to miss up to eight weeks, give or take — the Raiders O-line is in shambles.
Not only will Jackson be on the shelf, starting left guard Richie Incognito will not play the first two games. That leaves former first-round bust Jonathan Cooper as the next man up at that spot. Denzelle Good, a candidate to fight for the left guard spot is on the mend after back surgery.
Jackson’s replacements, veteran Jordan Devey and Denver Kirkland, are in a contested battle. In all honesty, neither should be anything more than reserves. Don’t be fooled by a good showing from Kirkland. And while Devey can play every position on the Raiders OL, he’s a spot/emergency starter at best. Think a more versatile, albeit older, version of former Raiders lineman Jon Feliciano (who I dubbed affectionately Fat Klay for his uncanny resemblance to Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson).
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First and foremost, the OL shuffle will affect quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders’ air attack. Oakland appears poised to push the ball downfield more aggressively thanks to Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, the team’s two stellar additions at wide receiver. Expect fleet-footed tight end Darren Waller to stretch the seam too. Without Incognito and Jackson walling off the interior, however, that leaves Rodney Hudson as the lone quality talent blocking Carr’s twelve o’clock.
Gruden can call quick passes and throws in the flat to offset not providing Carr the time to go through progressions and go deep. Yet, that would drive rabid RaiderNation insane. On the other hand, a version of this working extremely well during Gruden’s initial run in Oakland. Nevertheless, that’s the passing game.
Affected Ground Game
The absence of the two, mauler guards possess dire consequences to the ground attack. Rookie tailback Josh Jacobs is talented and progressing well. However, all the talent in the world can’t override an OL missing sharp teeth at the guard spots. Incognito and Jackson are far better steamrolling run blockers than pass protectors.
There are reports surfacing the Raiders are exploring other options — like inquiring about potential waiver wire cuts. The prudent thing to do is look at every single option available. If the Raiders make a quantum leap offensively this year, they will need to beef up front to make it happen.