Improving The Offensive Line= Improving The Raiders
The most important part of any team is its o-line. Protect the quarterback and give him time, open up the running lines for the backfield and you are 2/3rds of the way to winning football matches. Yes, we've all heard the mantra that offence wins games and defence wins championships but that is only partly true. All great teams have a great quarterback, a decent running game and a top receiver. All great teams have a top ranked defence or perhaps more importantly a defence that stops teams when it matters (stats ain't everything). But most importantly all great teams have a great offensive line.
Tom Cable has made a reputation as an o/line coach (witness Robert Gallery's significant improvement with his coaching). This next season the continuing development of the offensive line will determine whether or not the Raiders return to winning ways. At left tackle Mario Henderson showed signs of maturing into a competent player last year and Khalif Barnes is a big improvement on Kwame (lame?) Harris. I feel Henderson will start but may be moved to the right side if Barnes is the real deal and as a pair they would be better starters than last September. The big problem may be if either gets a long term injury and the backups have to start, none of whom inspire great confidence.
The two guard positions may well be the strength of the line at present with Gallery and Carlisle the incumbents. Gallery may be looking at a possible Pro Bowl next year, but again the backups are nothing spectacular and Cable may be looking at a veteran free agent after the final cuts are made who can play both tackle or guard. This may be after the release of Cornell Green.
The big debate may be over the centre position with the choice between Satele and Wade as the starter. Satele is mobile and although he started all 16 games for the Dolphins last year questions have been posed about his size. I think Cable likes him as a fit in his system and views Wade as a backup. I also feel his mobility may be a big advantage this year as the Raiders may run more plays to the outside to take advantage of McFadden's speed as he gets more playing time.
The offensive line is key to the Raiders regeneration this year. If Russell is given more time in the pocket then we will find out if he is worth the first pick in the draft, if he doesn't show it then Garcia is proven. If the line doesn't do its job then you can have Namath, Montana or Marino back there but you don't do much with a 320lb tackle on top of you.
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