One of very few constants in the NFL is roster turnover.
Just two seasons ago, when the Oakland Raiders earned their way back to the postseason for the first time in over a decade, they did so behind what was regarded as one of the best offensive lines in the league.
In total, that group allowed just 18 sacks, and routinely established the tone for what Derek Carr and the Raiders wanted to do offensively.
Well, a year later, that group was unable to replicate that success – allowing 52 sacks – with a slightly different cast of characters, and now, fast forward to 2019, and there’s every indication that unit will look much different once again.
The team and veteran tackle Donald Penn – one of the anchors of that 2016 playoff team – parted ways in mid-March, and Kelechi Osemele, the man who held down the left guard spot for the past three years, is now a member of the New York Jets.
Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock were aggressive in the early goings of the NFL league year addressing the needs along the offensive line, signing Denzelle Good to a contract extension, while also inking Trent Brown, Chaz Green, and Jordan Devey as well.
The headliner of that group – for good reason – is Brown, a complete mammoth of a man coming off a Super Bowl winning season with the New England Patriots where he protected Tom Brady’s blindside.
With Kolton Miller entrenched as the team’s left tackle, the addition of Brown resulted in questions about where the big man would line up, and while Mayock ultimately deferred to Coach Gruden in that regard, he did speak to the versatility of both tackles.
“I think Jon is still working it through,” said Mayock when asked about the offensive line formation. “We signed a tackle who can play both sides, which is really exciting to us. His [Brown’s] tape in San Francisco, right tackle is pretty good, so we feel like we have a guy who can play both sides. Kolton can play both sides, and what it allows us to do, obviously, is make our third-round pick Brandon Parker a swing guy this year, which will really help his development. We feel good about the tackles.”
While the Raiders tackles – at least as of now – seem solidified heading into 2019, one question mark for Tom Cable’s group surrounds the gentlemen on the interior of the line. While you can put Rodney Hudson down in pen as the Silver and Black’s starting center, there is some mystery into who will be on either side of him.
“Obviously, our center is an All-Pro type center,” Mayock explained. “Gabe [Jackson] is an All-Pro type guard. The question is just, I think, how we work the interior of that line.”
Mayock and Gruden will certainly have a plethora of options on what to do with that spot, regardless of whether or not Jackson flips to the left side following Osemele’s departure. Both Denzelle Good and the recently acquired Jordan Devey have history playing on the interior, or if they so choose, the Raiders could pick up another interior lineman in next month’s draft.
While we won’t know for certain what the front five of the Raiders offensive line will look like for a few months, watching the group sort itself out throughout the offseason program will be something to keep a close eye on.
During his media session, Mayock also touched on some recent signings for the Silver and Black:
“If you go back to the tape, early in his career, when he was in the Pro Bowl, playing well, when he was in shape, when he was healthy, and in the period of time where that was all on the table, he was as good as any off-the-ball linebacker in football.”
“Nevin Lawson is a guy I’ve liked since Utah State. I think he’s really competitive. He can play inside and outside. I think he upgrades our cornerback room just because he’s so darn competitive, and he’s going to go in there and not really care who starts. He’s going to go out there and compete, and that’s what we want. We want guys like that.”
“Curtis is a free safety, that again, gives us some versatility on the back end. On the back end, now that we’ve got Lawson, awesome, we’ve got some other guys that can play – obviously, [Lamarcus] Joyner, we signed him to be a nickel and a free safety. When he’s playing nickel, who starts at free safety? Where’s Karl Joseph? Is he in the box at strong [safety]? Is he going to compete with Erik Harris? We think we have more competition two weeks later, than we did two weeks ago, as far as on the back end, both inside and outside.”
Mayock was also asked about whether or not he has talked to Marshawn Lynch about a return to the Raiders:
“No, I think Jon has talked to him a couple of times. I have not. Jon has a relationship with him, I don’t. Ultimately, there’s obviously a big question mark at running back with us right now, and he’s a guy that certainly – I think both parties have to wait to the Draft and see what happens there.”