The Oakland Raiders have been blessed with a bounty of talented offensive linemen over the years, but specifically at the center position. It all started back in 1960 when Jim Otto became the starting center of the Silver and Black. Over the course of his 15 seasons as a Raider, No. 00 was a Pro Bowler 12 times, and a First-Team All-Pro 10 times. The Wausau, Wisc., native was one of a kind — he was inducted in the Hall of Fame 38 years ago tomorrow — but Head Coach Jon Gruden sees a lot of him in current center Rodney Hudson.
“I was with Jim Otto the other day. Jim Otto was here for the Alumni [Weekend] and I was talking to him about Rodney. There’s a lot of similar qualities in terms of toughness, passion for football and communication and all-out effort,” Gruden said Wednesday. “The thing I love about Hudson is when we throw a pass, he runs down to cover, he runs down to see if the receiver needs any help every play. He’s the best center that I’ve coached.”
The former Florida State Seminole shared his thoughts after hearing Gruden’s comparison.
“I’m just trying to work hard and get better,” Hudson said. “I’ve spoken with Jim a good bit. Jim was always playing hard and did things the right way. We spoke briefly. It’s an honor to be able to meet him and talk to him.”
Hudson is not going to be the loudest individual in any room, but when he’s at the line of scrimmage he’s analyzing defensive formations, and communicating with his teammates better than anyone. Like Otto, Hudson is a grinder, and it’s one of his many traits that most commonly gets brought up when No. 61 is mentioned in conversation.
“He’s one of our captains,” Gruden said. “When you’re in the pivot and you’re playing against [defensive coordinator Paul] Guenther, a lot of things change. Looks like they’re bringing a blitz to the left, then they’re bring a blitz to the right. They’re coming up the middle. He made a couple calls late in the down that were awesome today. It’s fun going to work with a battery that we have. Derek Carr and Rodney Hudson are showing some really good communication and understanding of our system and what we want to do.”
Last year, Hudson played through kidney stones in a pair of games — a feat that is still incomprehensible in my mind — and he’s served as a reliable anchor in the middle of the line for three years now. The Raiders interior line is one of the team’s strongest areas, and they’ll need Hudson, along with guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson to stay healthy throughout 2018.
Gruden: “[Defensive tackle PJ Hall] obviously was limited. We want to ease him back into things. He did a lot of individual work. We’ll try to get him some one-on-one rushes tomorrow and ease him into the nine-on-seven. Remember, he didn’t get the four days of the rookie preparation. We’re happy to have him back, we think he’s an inside pass rusher, he’s hard to block, and hopefully we continue to see progress.”
Hudson: “Derek’s doing a good job. It is a lot of information. We’ve been installing every day. He’s doing a good job. He’s a sharp guy. He’s going to work hard, that’s one thing we do know. He’s doing a great job.”
Safety Reggie Nelson: “I think our whole coaching staff is doing a great job of putting our system out and making sure the guys in that room get it and learn it the way they’ve been teaching. I just think all together, the system has been great for me. We haven’t had any problems at all. We have a great coaching staff out here. I love it.”