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Oakland Raiders' Position Battles: Offensive Line


OTHER POSITION BATTLES:Wide Receivers, Cornerbacks

Over the course of the 2015 season, the Oakland Raiders' offensive line was arguably the most consistent position group on the roster.

Not only did the big guys up front keep quarterback Derek Carr clean – allowing just 33 sacks all season – they also paved the way for running back Latavius Murray to become the first Raider to hit the 1,000-yard mark since 2010, as he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in the process.

What was a dominant group to begin with hopefully got even better this offseason with addition of guard Kelechi Osemele – a powerful lineman who has made no qualms about his love for playing physical football.

The Silver and Black have high hopes for offensive line coach Mike Tice's group, so with Training Camp 2016 on the horizon, let's take a look at the entirety of the position group and see what we should expect from them going forward.

Guard – Vadal Alexander – Rookie – LSU

The Raiders used their seventh-round pick (No. 234 overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft to select the powerful guard from LSU.

"I'm really tough and nasty," said Alexander when describing his game. "I'm a physical player, I pride myself on that as an offensive lineman. I finish my blocks. Every block, I try my best to finish it with them on the ground."

Alexander was a four-year starter at LSU, which is no small feat in the ultra-competitive SEC, and the Raiders are hopeful that the physical lineman can earn his way into the offensive line rotation as the season wears on.

Guard – Mitch Bell – First Season – Louisiana Tech

After wrapping up his career as a Bulldog, Bell spent his first NFL season on the Practice Squad in 2015.

For Bell to crack the 53-man roster this season, he'll have to do myriad things, but first and foremost is he'll have to put together a quality start of Training Camp 2016.

He'll also have to show the ability to be versatile in where he lines up along the offensive front, as well as be proficient at playing multiple positions.

Center – Ross Burbank – Rookie – University of Virginia

After a five-year career at the University of Virginia, Burbank signed with the Silver and Black as an undrafted free agent.

Besides incumbent starter Rodney Hudson, Burbank is currently the only other pure center listed on the roster, and while he won't supplant Hudson in the starting lineup, as we saw last season, depth along the offensive front is crucial.

As a result of the versatility of other members of the offensive line, Burbank is fighting an uphill battle to make the roster, so putting together a quality training camp will be crucial for him.

Offensive Lineman – Jon Feliciano – Second Season – Miami (Fla.)

Felicano appeared in six games for the Raiders, making three starts, during his rookie season for the Silver and Black.

Most of Feliciano's action in 2015 came on special teams, but depending on where he lines up in 2016, there could be room for him to make more of an impact on the offensive side of the football.

The former Miami Hurricane unquestionably boasts prototypical NFL size, but on an offensive line as talented as the Raiders, pure size won't earn him an increase in playing time.

Tackle – Austin Howard – Seventh Season – Northern Iowa

In his second season in Silver and Black, Howard played admirably, starting 13 games for the Raiders before being placed on the reserve/injured list prior to the team's Week 15 matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

Heading into 2016, Howard figures to battle it out with Menelik Watson for the opportunity to start at right tackle, in what will be one of the more entertaining position battles to watch.

Howard has shown that he can be a quality tackle in the NFL, so watching him and Watson go back and forth through training camp will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

Center – Rodney Hudson – Sixth Season – Florida State

Hudson was impressive in his first season in Silver and Black, masterfully quarterbacking the offensive line and routinely showing off an athleticism not expected from a man of his size.

After missing three games last season because of an ankle injury, Hudson is back to 100 percent, and will once again be looked at to lead the offensive front for the Raiders.

Another year of experience also means another year of familiarity with Derek Carr, and only good things can come from their on-field relationship continuing to grow.

Guard – Gabe Jackson – Third Season – Mississippi State

Through just two seasons in Silver and Black, Jackson has already proven to be one of the top-tier guards in the NFL; however, 2016 will present a new set of challenges for the former Mississippi State Bulldog.

With the addition of Kelechi Osemele to the mix in 2016, Jackson has switched from the left side of the offensive line to the right side – a position he hasn't played since high school – but Head Coach Jack Del Rio has been pleased with what he's seen from Jackson at the new position thus far.

"We feel like he's got the power that's really a covet for a right guard, in particular," explained Del Rio. "I've seen nothing that would suggest anything other than he's going to be just fine and we'll be a much stronger unit with that group that'll end up being in there and we'll be stout."

Training camp will provide some much-needed for reps for Jackson at his new position, but all indications are that he'll be just fine and continue to play at a high level.

Guard – Denver Kirkland – Rookie – Arkansas

During the course of his three-season career as a Razorback, Kirkland made 34 consecutive starts, spending time at both left tackle and right guard, and that experience playing multiple positions along the offensive front will pay dividends for him as he tries to make the Raiders' final roster.

As an undrafted free agent, Kirkland will have to make the most of what might be limited opportunities throughout the preseason, and find a way to grab the coaching staff's attention if he wants to extend his career in Silver and Black.

Offensive lineman – Matt McCants – Fourth Season – Alabama-Birmingham

While McCants remained on the active roster throughout 2015, he was inactive for 14 games, making just a pair of appearances in his third NFL season.

The tackle/guard has been in the NFL since 2012, but only time will tell if he will once again find himself in the mix along the offensive front in 2016.

Guard – Oni Omoile – Rookie – Iowa State

When Omoile arrived at the Raiders' facility as an undrafted free agent, he was greeted by a familiar face, as his cousin is guard Kelechi Osemele.

"He [Osemele] is a great example to follow," Omoile said. "I can just watch him. I can just watch some of the other guys who are also really great."

Omoile said that his biggest asset as a guard is his quickness, and that quickness will have to be on full display once the team arrives at Training Camp 2016.

Offensive Lineman – Kelechi Osemele – Iowa State

One of the jewels of the Silver and Black's free agent class, Osemele is a bruising, physical lineman who figures to be the team's starting left guard once the regular season arrives.

Standing at 6'5" and weighing 330 pounds, Osmele is a physically-imposing figure, and he'll be asked to not only clear the path for running back Latavius Murray, but to also keep Derek Carr safe in pass protection.

Tackle – Donald Penn – 11th Season – Utah State 

Heading into season number 11, the veteran lineman shows no signs of slowing down.

Penn has been a staple at left tackle since he arrived in Northern California in 2014, and that would once again be the assumption in 2016.

The Utah State-product – who arguably should have made the Pro Bowl last season – hasn't missed a game since 2007, and his health and productivity will be crucial for the Silver and Black this season.

Guard – Terran Vaughn – Rookie – Stephen F. Austin

One thing that Terran Vaughn has in his corner in his bid to make the Silver and Black's final roster is experience.

He spent four years at Stephen F. Austin, appearing in 46 games, making 38 starts primarily at right guard.

The Raiders' offensive line is rich with talent and there aren't many positions up for grabs, so it will be vital for Vaughn to put quality work on film as soon as the team arrives in Napa.

Tackle – Menelik Watson – Fourth Season – Florida State

After putting together a quality Training Camp 2015, Watson's season ended prematurely when he suffered a season-ending injury during the third week of the preseason.

He spent all season on Injured Reserve, but after an aggressive rehabilitation, Watson is healthy and ready to compete for the job at right tackle with veteran lineman Austin Howard.

Watson is a physical, mauling lineman, so be sure to keep an eye on him when the team reports to training camp.

Offensive Tackle – Torian White – Rookie – Hampton University

After beginning his college career at UCLA, White played his final two seasons at Hampton University.

White remains somewhat of an unknown, so it'll be interesting to see what he looks like once pads come on at Training Camp 2016.

Keep An Eye On…

Who will be the starting right tackle when the team gets on a plane and heads to New Orleans to open the regular season against the Saints?

Four of the five starting lineman (Penn, Osemele, Hudson and Jackson) seem to nearly be set in stone, with the big question remaining at right tackle.

Like we said earlier, Menelik Watson and Austin Howard seem poised to renew their Training Camp 2015 battle, and with only a few starting positions up for grabs on the roster this season, their matchups will something to track carefully.

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