Overview:Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr likes to say that the offensive line is the engine that makes the Silver and Black's offensive car go, and in 2016, that engine was gassed up, firing on all cylinders, and driving Carr and Co., to their first playoff appearance since 2002.
Plain and simple, the Raiders big fellas up front helped spark the entire offense as a whole, and made a group that was really good in 2015 even better in 2016.
Key to that improvement – among myriad factors – was the addition of Kelechi Osemele, one of the jewels of the Raiders free agent haul, who certainly lived up the hype in his first season in Silver and Black.
Not only did Osemele earn a trip to the Pro Bowl – along with center Rodney Hudson and left tackle Donald Penn – he also earned First-Team All-Pro honors at season's end to boot.
Offensive line coach Mike Tice's group set the tone for the Raiders high-flying offense in 2016, both giving Carr and the team's quarterbacks ample time to operate from the pocket, while also serving as the catalyst for the team's resurgent ground attack as well.
Regardless of who was lined up along the line – and the team was forced to implore a multitude of lineups because of injury – the group was unquestionably one of the best offensive lines in football, and the stats back that assertion up.
By The Numbers:The Raiders allowed just 18 sacks in 2016; the fewest of any team in the NFL.
Going Forward:For the most part, the Silver and Black's starting offensive line (Penn, Osemele, Hudson, Jackson, and Howard) look to be poised to return in 2017.
Donald Penn, Osemele, and Rodney Hudson are all under contract for next season, as is Gabe Jackson who is still playing under his rookie deal.
Where things get really interesting as far as the offensive line is concerned is the right tackle position.
Austin Howard and Menelik Watson combined for 15 starts at right tackle (rookie lineman Vadal Alexander started two) and both are scheduled to hit free agency at the start of the new league year.
An exclusive look back at the Offensive Lineman from the 2016 season.
The pair of athletic linemen have a combined 56 starts in Silver and Black, so I'll be watching closely to see how General Manager Reggie McKenzie addresses the right side of the line over the next few months.
While Howard and Watson handled the lion share of work on the right side, in 2016 don't sleep on Alexander heading into 2017.
After a four-year career at LSU, Alexander appeared in nine games as a rookie, so keep a close eye on big No. 74 as the Offseason Workout Program gets underway and leads into training camp.
Along with the all the aforementioned players, the Raiders also have Denver Kirkland, and Jon Feliciano under contract heading into 2017.
Standout Performer:There's really no wrong choice as far as the standout performer from the Raiders offensive line goes; Rodney Hudson and Donald Penn were Pro Bowlers, and Gabe Jackson was a Pro Bowl snub in my opinion, but I'm going to have to give the nod to Kelechi Osemele.
The Raiders wanted to build a bully along their offensive front, and Osemele was a big part of that in 2016, both with his demeanor, and his play between the hash marks.
The goliath guard was a dominant force all season, and his dominance was recognized at season's end, as he was not only named to the Pro Bowl, but also earned First-Team All-Pro honors as well.