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Oakland Raiders 2017 Position Battles: Offensive Line


MORE POSITION BATTLES: Wide Receivers, Cornerbacks

The clock keeps ticking, and we're inching closer and closer to the start of Training Camp 2017.

Today we take a look at the big fellas up front, the offensive line. Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice's group was one of the best, if not *the *best in the league last season, so let's see which players will be the major contributors going forward this year.

Vadal Alexander

2016 Recap (Appeared in Nine Games, Five Starts)

Alexander enjoyed a strong rookie season, appearing in nine games, and making starts all along the offensive line from right tackle to left guard.

He was also one of a handful of players who lined up as a de facto blocking tight end when the situation called for it, and that versatility to be a jack of all trades will serve him well as he continues on in the early stages of his career.

For 2017 though? I expect to see him battle for the starting job at right tackle, as well as serve as a utility man along the line in general.

Chauncey Briggs

2016 Recap (WITH SMU MUSTANGS: 10 Starts)

Briggs played his college football at SMU, making 39 appearances as a Mustang, including 32 starts.

Like many other players currently on the Raiders roster, Briggs has the ability to move along the offensive line, so I'll be curious to see where he gets most of his work when the team gets to Napa for training camp.

Jon Feliciano

2016 Recap (Appeared In 16 Games)

After appearing in just six games during his rookie season, Feliciano played in all 16 regular season games, and playoff game, for the Silver and Black in 2017.

Like many of the other lineman on the roster, Feliciano has the ability to line up numerous places along the line, but I expect him to be Rodney Hudson's primary backup at the center position in 2017.

Austin Howard

2016 Recap (Appeared In 11 Games, 10 Starts)

It seems like each season, Howard just continually finds a way to contribute for the Raiders.

Last season, Howard started 10 games at right tackle, as well as the team's Wild Card matchup against the Houston Texans, serving as a vital part of one of the league's best offensive lines.

Headed into 2017, Howard will likely once again have to battle for his job, but if we've learned one thing over the past couple of years, it's to never count out Austin Howard when the pads come on, and the games start to mean something.

Rodney Hudson

2016 Recap (16 Starts. Pro Bowl Selection)

After starting all 16 games for the Raiders in 2016 – the first time Hudson had started all 16 games in a season since 2014 – the veteran center will once again be manning the middle of the Raiders offensive line in 2017.

Since joining the Silver and Black, Hudson has been lauded for not only his physicality, but his intelligence as well, which through two seasons has served the Raiders offense as a whole very well.

Hudson is an integral piece to the Raiders offensive line, and I'll be looking forward to see him ride the momentum of his 2016 Pro Bowl selection into 2017.

Gabe Jackson

2016 Recap (16 Starts)

After two seasons squarely entrenched at left guard, Jackson was shifted over to the right side in 2017 following the arrival of Kelechi Osemele to the Silver and Black.

Although he admitted after the fact that he was a little apprehensive about his shift to the right side, Jackson thrived in 2016, starting all 16 games, and was named a Pro Bowl alternate at season's end.

The former Mississippi State Bulldog has been a consistent presence since being drafted in 2014, and as a result of his hard work, the organization just rewarded him with a five-year extension.

Jackson is now under contract through 2022, so get used to seeing No. 66 in the trenches for the Raiders for the foreseeable future.

Denver Kirkland

2016 Recap (Appeared In Six Games, Four Starts)

After starting the regular season on the Raiders practice squad, Kirkland was elevated to the active roster prior to Week 4, eventually appearing in six games before season's end.

While Kirkland did see time at tackle throughout his rookie season, he also spent significant time as the team's de facto blocking tight end following Lee Smith's season-ending injury.

At 6-4 and 335 pounds, Kirkland is a mammoth of a man, so I'll be interested to see how he develops in Year 2.

Marshall Newhouse

2016 Recap (WITH NEW YORK GIANTS: Appeared In 10 Games, Six Starts)

Newhouse was one of the first free agents that General Manager Reggie McKenzie brought in this offseason.

Now headed into his seventh NFL season, there won't be much that an opposing defense can throw at Newhouse that he hasn't seen before, and that type of experience is a valuable asset to have for any offensive lineman.

Newhouse has the skillset to play all around the offensive front, but as it stands now, I expect to see him battling for the right to start at right tackle.

Oni Omoile

2016 Recap (Raiders Practice Squad)

Omoile was signed by the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2016, subsequently spending the entire year on the Raiders squad.

Omoile – who also happens to be the cousin of Kelechi Osemele – has experience playing a bevy of positions along the offensive line, and he'll need to have a strong showing in training camp to find himself on the active roster in 2017.

Kelechi Osemele

2016 Recap (Appeared In 15 Games, 15 Starts. Pro Bowl Selection. Associated Press First Team All-Pro. PFWA All-NFL Team Selection.)

Osemele was dominant during his first season as a Raider, simple as that.

In addition to his stellar work in both pass protection, and run blocking, the imposing offensive lineman added an attitude to the Silver and Black's offensive line, one that permeated the group as a whole.

Osemele is one of the top – if not *the *top – guards in the game, and you can pencil him in right now to be the team's left guard in 2017 and beyond.

Donald Penn

*2016 Recap (16 Starts. One Reception, One Receiving Yard, One Touchdown. Pro Bowl Selection PWFA All-NFL Team Selection.) *

It brings me such joy to include Donald's receiving stats in his 2016 recap.

After suffering an injury in the fourth quarter of the team's regular season finale against the Denver Broncos, Penn should be ready to rock at 100 percent when the team reports to training camp later this month.

The veteran tackle will once again be manning Derek Carr's blind side, and don't sleep on him when the team is on the goal line; he has four career receiving touchdowns for a reason.

David Sharpe

2016 Recap (WITH FLORIDA GATORS: Appeared In 13 Games, 13 Starts.)

The Silver and Black selected the former Florida Gator in the fourth round (No. 129 overall) of this year's NFL Draft.

Sharpe enjoyed a quality career at Florida where he was teammates with Head Coach Jack Del Rio's son, Luke, and now he'll have a chance to continue his football journey with his former quarterback's father.

Sharpe is an imposing figure, and I'm excited to see what Mike Tice does with him throughout his rookie campaign.

Ian Silberman

2016 Recap (Raiders Practice Squad)

Silberman is a big, physical player who will hopefully be more comfortable heading into 2017 after joining the Raiders practice squad in October.

Depth along the offensive line is always key, so let's see how he looks throughout the preseason.

Jordan Simmons

2016 Recap (WITH USC TROJANS: Appeared In 13 Games, One Start)

Simmons arrives in Oakland after wrapping up his college career with the USC Trojans.

During his brief tenure in Southern California, Simmons saw time at both guard and tackle, and as we all know, for players trying to find a role on an NFL team, versatility at times can be the name of the game.

Jylan Ware

2016 Recap (Appeared In 11 Games, 11 Starts)

The Raiders used one of their four, seventh-round picks on the relatively unknown lineman from Alabama State.

Ware might need some time to develop, but if that is indeed the case, he likely doesn't have a better group of players to learn from than the Raiders offensive line.

Storyline To Follow:

Just like in 2016, I'll be keeping a close eye on the battle for right tackle.

Every other starting role along the Raiders offensive line is nearly cemented, but right tackle looks to be the one position where there will be some spirited competition.

Will Austin Howard hold onto the job he earned last year, or will newcomer Marshall Newhouse end up earning the role? Could up-and-comer Vadal Alexander find himself in the fray too?

Only time will tell, but that's one storyline that I'll be following closely throughout training camp and the preseason.

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