The Oakland Raiders have 16 players on the Reserve/Injured list currently, including tackle Donald Penn who technically returned to practice December 5th. The Silver and Black have been plagued with injuries in 2018, and the position group that’s suffered the most has to be the offensive line.
Since Week 1, rookie left tackle Kolton Miller has played next to five different left guards, and suffered a handful of ailments of his own. The former UCLA Bruin has battled through his fair share of injuries, and he’s done more than enough to prove he’s mentally and physically tough; a characteristic that Head Coach Jon Gruden places at a premium.
“He’s improved in one-on-one pass protections, improved in the running game, he’s handled a lot of audibles,” Gruden said Monday during his press conference. “He’s played next to five different left guards, he’s been mentally tough, and physically tough, and those are the two qualities I admire the most.
He continued, “He’s battled through some legitimate injuries, and he’s seen Melvin Ingram, Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Von Miller. He’s seen some great players, but he’s been mentally tough, he’s been physically tough, he hasn’t missed practice, he’s into football. He’s got a huge upside.”
Miller has shown growth since the team drafted him in April, and part of it can be attributed to the veteran presences he has along the offensive line. Miller has learned from some of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, but as of late he’s been without his left guard Kelechi Osemele.
The Pro Bowl guard has been sidelined with a toe injury the last couple weeks, and Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals the team was forced to start Chaz Green and Denzelle Good in place of Osemele and fellow guard Gabe Jackson. The team is optimistic they’ll get Osemele back before the end of the year, but his status remains to be determined.
“We are very hopeful that KO [Kelechi Osemele] can come back and be our left guard; although, you have to be realistic, and not just hopeful,” Gruden said. “This is a serious toe injury that’s hard for him to maneuver on, and Gabe Jackson is suffering from a very legitimate elbow injury, and it’s hard to block people when you can’t extend your arm. We’re concerned, obviously, but I will say this, Chaz Green and Denzelle Good on short notice, they didn’t some good things yesterday.”
In addition to the absence of Osemele and Jackson, veteran tackle Donald Penn’s presence on the right side has been missed this season. The big fella hasn’t played since Week 4, and he’s spent the last 11 weeks rehabbing trying to make a return to the field. It’s possible he returns this season, and I’m sure quarterback Derek Carr would be pleased if he did.
“I think Donald [Penn] is wide open, he wants to play, as you know, how many linemen are you going to have up? There’s a chance he could be up this week, we’ll address that here in the next couple days,” Gruden shared. “There’s a clock when you get a guy off the injured reserve, you get a couple weeks to look at, and our clock is about to expire. We’ll talk to Rod Martin, we’ll talk to Donald, and we’ll determine that here in the next 48 hours.”
The Raiders offensive line will face a tough test this week on Monday Night Football when Bradley Chubb and Von Miller come to town. The Denver Broncos are 6-8, and their playoff hopes are all but gone; however, it’s always a good game when the AFC West division rivals play against each other, especially on primetime. Chubb and Miller have combined for 26.5 sacks this season, hopefully the Raiders get their starting guards back to try and fend off the powerful pass rushers.