The Las Vegas Raiders have the best offensive line in the NFL, but what happens if one of the top blockers in the league suffers an injury?
This offseason, Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock wanted to add more depth in the event of an untimely injury to one of Derek Carr's protectors. Everyone knows the best way to succeed in the NFL is to win the battle in the trenches, and over the last few years the Raiders have set themselves up nicely to thrive in the passing and running game.
Even though we have a pretty good idea of who the starting five will be in 2020, let's recap the offensive line.
Previous Position Battles:
Lester Cotton Sr.
For an offensive line loaded with talent, the only issue they faced in 2019 was health. It was rare that the Raiders starting core of Kolton Miller, Richie Incognito, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Trent Brown were all on the field at the same time, but when they were it was something special.
Derek Carr was sacked 29 times last season tied for the fourth-fewest among quarterbacks (Joe Flacco was sacked a league-low 26 times, but he only played eight games). If No. 4 would've had healthy receivers the offense would've benefitted immensely from his protection, but with added talent out wide and the same starting five up front, there's reason to believe the Raiders have an explosive offense this year.
Not only was the protection of Carr exceptional, but rookie Josh Jacobs had plenty of room to find running lanes and showcase his talent at the second level. As a team, the Raiders ranked in the top 15 of numerous rushing categories: First down runs, first-down run percentage, runs of 40 yards or more, runs of 20 yards or more, and rushing yards.
If the offensive line was able to accomplish all of this in their first season playing together in Coach Gruden's system (Rodney Hudson, Kolton Miller, and Gabe Jackson excluded), imagine what they'll be able to do when they're healthy and familiar with one another entering Year Two.
Since health was the biggest dilemma for several position groups last year, the Raiders have made sure they create more depth, which is why the team selected former Clemson Tiger, John Simpson, in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Gabe Jackson's knee injury during training camp last year left a hole at right guard, but the expectation moving forward is that Simpson or Denzelle Good would be able to step in if needed. Jackson is underrated in many ways and is overlooked every year when it comes to Pro Bowl votes, but his impact on the Raiders can't be emphasized enough.
The Raiders signed two Browns in free agency last offseason and one of them made a significant contribution to the team — we all know how the other story ended. For 11 games, Trent Brown fortified Carr's right side and the former Fresno State Bulldog loved having him there; however, Brown was limited to 11 games because of an injury — are you sensing a theme?
For the Raiders to succeed in 2020, the offensive line needs to stay healthy.
With top-five talent at nearly every position on the line, the Raiders should rank top five in nearly every rushing category, as well as sacks allowed. This is the year the Raiders' offense becomes elite.
View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line heading into 2020 Training Camp. The offensive line is featured by Pro Bowlers Rodney Hudson, Richie Incognito and Trent Brown, veteran guard Gabe Jackson, left tackle Kolton Miller, and draft pick John Simpson.