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Reshuffled Offensive Line Thrives In Win Over New Orleans Saints


Guard Gabe Jackson, Center Rodney Hudson, and Quarterback Derek Carr

There's always a contingency plan.

Having one for every possible situation that can occur on game day is par for the course for every NFL coaching staff, the Raiders included, but having one to replace two lineman, after a veteran swing tackle has already been ruled out before kickoff?

Well, that's just excessive, but that's exactly the situation Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his staff found themselves in during the third quarter of Sunday's win over the New Orleans Saints.

With veteran tackle Austin Howard already ruled out of the game because of an ankle injury, and rookie Vadal Alexander as one of the team's six inactive players, the Silver and Black had to get creative after both Menelik Watson and then Matt McCants were forced to leave the game with injuries of their own.

In an already highly-contested game, Del Rio and offensive line coach Mike Tice were forced to call upon that contingency plan, and move Donald Penn from left to right tackle, shift Kelechi Osemele outside to left tackle, and insert Jon Feliciano at left guard.

"I think [offensive line coach] Mike Tice did a phenomenal job," said Del Rio during his Monday press conference. "I think the offensive line did a phenomenal job. Guys adjusted and carried on. It was really awesome to see. We do work on contingency plans, that's probably as far [as we plan]. I mean, that's exhausting it right there. (laughter) We, in fact, had [tight end] Lee Smith up next. If anything happens, what are you going to do? You have to go to somebody."

The Raiders rolled with the amended offensive line through the end of the game, finding a plethora of offensive success with the group, en route to a 35-34 win over the Saints. Quarterback Derek Carr wasn't sacked, and had plenty of time to operate from the pocket, and guard Gabe Jackson believes the collective success the offense found was a direct result of the ever-popular, next-man-up philosophy.

"We have guys that are just ready to step up when their number is called," said Jackson. "We have a hard-working group, and everybody takes pride in their job. That's a good thing to see in the whole offensive line, and not just in a few people."

Donald Penn said postgame that he hadn't lined up at right tackle since his freshman year at Utah State, and while he was critical of his play on the right side, the veteran lineman was happy to be headed back to the Bay Area with a 1-0 record.

"I was horrible," Penn said. "[Offensive coordinator] Bill [Musgrave] did a great job of switching up the game plan, and calling plays that weren't going to put me in a bad position over there, and he did a great job of that. Him and Coach Tice did a great job of making adjustments, but I'm not going to lie, I was really worried over there, because it's been so long. My feet were all jacked up. It just felt real bad. I'm just happy we won."

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