Up next in our Position Review series is a look at the big fellas up front, the guys tasked with keeping Derek Carr safe, the offensive line.
After being one of the most consistent groups on the Oakland Raiders roster the past few years, the o-line in 2018 undoubtedly featured its fair share of moving pieces, and growing pains.
With two rookie tackles on the outside, this season was a learning experience for the group as a whole; let's review Tom Cable's group, and also take a look down the road to what 2019 could have in store for the collective unit.
As I said just moments ago, the story of the Silver and Black's offensive line in 2018 has to start with the rookies.
The Raiders front office invested heavily in the offensive line last year, selecting Kolton Miller in the first round (No. 15 overall), then Brandon Parker two rounds later (No. 65 overall), and while the original plan likely wasn't for the pair to play as much as they did right away, plans change.
Donald Penn – who was originally thought to be the team's right tackle in 2018 – suffered an injury that resulted in him playing just four games, and with the reliable veteran unable to go, Parker was thrown into the mix.
When all was said and done, Parker had appeared in every regular season game save one, and had made 12 starts in his rookie season, while Miller started all 16 contests – an impressive feat, no doubt.
And while the two rookies certainly dealt with their ups and down in their first NFL season, following the team's finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, both tackles said that the experience of playing a ton of reps in their first season will benefit them going forward.
Moving to the interior of the line, the Raiders guards battled through injuries last season as well; after missing just one game since 2016, Kelechi Osemele missed five in 2018, and fellow guard Gabe Jackson missed the final three games of the season as well.
In their stead, Jon Feliciano earned four starts (he too ended the season on IR), as did Chaz Green; former Indianapolis Colt Denzelle Good had three by the time the season wrapped up after joining the Silver and Black in early-December.
As you can see, the Raiders certainly dealt with their fair share of personnel changes along the offensive line, but the one constant was big Rodney Hudson, a man who played every offensive snap last year – shocker, but he was the only Raider to accomplish that feat.
The big guys up front had their ups and downs last year – no doubt about that – but with two rookie tackles, and new guards seemingly rotating in every week down the stretch, I don't think it's necessarily fair to give the group an accurate critique after the regular season.
Does Derek Carr need to have more time to operate going forward? Yes, I think we can all agree 52 sacks is too many, but with the experience of being thrown into action, I think Parker and Miller, along with their friends on the interior, will be better for it in 2019.
Reviewing the Raiders offensive line from the 2018 season.
The Number To Know:
That's how many snaps Rodney Hudson played last year, and for those of you who aren't great at math – myself included – that's every, single, offensive snap that the Silver and Black took last year.
Not only was Hudson a true ironman, but he played at an incredibly high level for the duration of the year.
Someone please explain to me how this man didn't make the Pro Bowl? I'll take my answer off the air.
Position Group MVP:
Rodney Hudson in a landslide – heck, there's an argument to be made that Hudson wasn't the MVP of just the offensive line, he was the MVP of the entire team.
We've talked ad nauseam about the ever-changing cast of characters that the Raiders offensive line featured last year, but through it all, week in, and week out, Hudson was the much-needed constant anchoring the group.
Derek Carr raved about No. 61 whenever he got the chance, even calling him one of the best, pure football players he's ever played with; high praise from the Pro Bowl quarterback.
Plain and simple, Hudson was spectacular in 2018, so he gets the nod.
The starting offensive line for the majority of the season (Miller, Osemele, Hudson, Jackson and Parker) are all under contract for 2019, but after that, it gets a little interesting.
(Oh, and don't forget about Donald Penn either. Although he spent much of the year on IR, he's still under contract, and I think we've all learned never to count out the veteran tackle.)
T.J. Clemmings, Denzelle Good, and Chaz Greene are all scheduled to hit free agency, as is versatile swingman Jon Feliciano, a player who has played at a high level since being drafted by the Silver and Black in 2015.
Truth be told, I'm intrigued to see how the Raiders front office handles the situation with Feliciano. He hasn't been a regular starter in his career, but when he has seen extended run, the former Miami Hurricane has played well.
And as they say, depth is the name of the game…
We'll get a lot more clarity on how this group will shake up over the coming months.