Guard Kelechi Osemele
A key to any successful football team is the play of the quarterback, but equally as important is providing that quarterback with the pieces to succeed.
At the top of that list of pieces is an effective, intimidating offensive line, and heading into 2016, that's exactly what the Oakland Raiders have built.
After an impressive season from the big men up front that saw them allow just 33 sacks in 2015, the group got even better this offseason with the addition of veteran guard Kelechi Osemele.
When he arrived in the Bay Area – after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens – Osemele described his style of play as "physical" and "nasty," and those adjectives have to be music to the ears of both quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of the Raiders' offense.
"Right under your chin strap. I'm trying to knock you out," Osemele said. "They call me 'KO' for a reason. They've been calling me that for a while, so that really defines who I am as a man. I'm going to look you in the eye and I'm going to take you down."
In addition to his skills in pass protection, Osemele prides himself on being a quality run blocker, and that's welcome news for a Raiders' offense that struggled at times throughout 2015 to consistently spark the ground game.
"I come from a place where we believe in running the ball, and it's good to be [in] another organization where that seems to be the goal with what they want to do," Osemele said. "I'm a mauler, that's what I do. I'm a road grader. I like to run people over and leave them there flat, so I'm glad to be on a team that is headed that direction."
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave also echoed Osemele's sentiment, and believes the addition of the powerful guard will help to springboard the run game in 2016.
"He's a tremendous run blocker," Musgrave said. "We've seen that on film when he was in Baltimore. [He's] good in pass blocking. We anticipate his run blocking to help our run game be more productive."
Osemele's arrival in Northern California has caused a slight shuffle along the offensive line with guard Gabe Jackson switching sides and now lining up at right guard – a position he hasn't played since college.
However, Head Coach Del Rio has been pleased with what he's seen from Jackson and the offensive line in general.
Just looking at the group, you're struck by just how physically imposing they are, and over the course of the offseason the Raiders' offensive line has been receiving a plethora of praise from around the NFL.
From analytic websites like Pro Football Focus, to NFL Network analysts, there's an excitement surrounding the offensive line, and you can add Del Rio to the list of people who can't wait for them to put the pads on.
"It's a big physical group," Del Rio said. "Really feel like we should be able to surge with that group of men up front. They kind of lead the way, create some running room, create a nice pocket for Derek [Carr]. Those are things we're looking to do. It all starts with our guys up front. I feel like we have a good group."
Heading into 2016, Osemele is without question going to be a key part of that group, and the imposing guard is looking forward to getting to work and wearing the Silver and Black on game day.
"It's going to feel good to be a part of an organization that is about really winning," said Osemele. "They want to dominate. They're about not taking any mess from anybody. I feel like I'm the same way, kind of really building a bully and going out there and making teams fear playing us. We want to get to the point where you line up against the Raiders and you already know what you're going to get. You're not going to be ready for it, and it's going to be cool to wear those colors."