Lorenzo Neal a Free Agent Steal for Oakland Raiders

BrentAnalyst IJune 21, 2009

BALTIMORE - DECEMBER 14:  Lorenzo Neal #42 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 14, 2008 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Steelers defeated the Ravens 13-9.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I'm embarrassed to tell you all of this is a response to a game I watched today on NFL Network: regular season, game 16, Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore, 2008. Pittsburgh snagged it in a squeaker, 13-9.

NFL Network shows Steeler games constantly. Someday it will be our turn.

A reason for that might be Lorenzo Neal.

Cursory research shows a seasoned journeyman. Seven teams. Fourth-round fullback pick for the Saints in 1993 out of Fresno State. His own running career as a premier, productive back also ended in the 1990s due to injuries. He still runs occasionally, brutally, and effectively, but that's getting ahead.

This is why he is a freak: He still wanted to play and transformed himself to one of the greatest NFL offensive lineman ever. These days, it's called a "blocking fullback," but he's a trench guy. The credit he gets for springing holes for running backs with record seasons is astounding.

  • With the 1997 New York Jets, Adrain Murell had a 1,086-yard season.
  • With the 1998 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Warrick Dunn ran for 1,026 yards.
  • With the 1999 and 2000 Titans, Eddie George had 1,304- and 1,509-yard seasons.
  • With the 2001 and 2002 Cincinnati Bungles, Corey Dillon rushed for 1,315 and 1,311 yards.
  • When he blocked for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego after that, the production was off the charts, as you know.
  • And last year, with the Ravens, he helped Le'Ron McLain come into his own as a premier back. (All stats from profootballreference.com, a fascinating site I found recently.)

Which brings us to today. I'm dog sitting at a friend's house, with no girlfriend around, two cool dogs, ice cold Pacifico, and Steelers vs. Ravens from 2008.

It's the first time I paid attention to Lorenzo Neal. This old guy played nearly every offensive snap with such brutality. The Steelers' front four were getting consistently manhandled. McLain got tough yards when he needed them.

But Ravens coach John Harbaugh called two interesting plays, each were like third-and-10 situations. Neal up the middle for positive yardage. He got the first down both times. In formations like this, Stillers D was totally off guard, the other o-lineman had to block and stretch for Neal, and he barrels up for like four yards and 15 yards, dragging Stillers.

As for his running skills, I'd have to say honestly he's like a nasty Zach Crockett.

As for offensive line free agency signings, what I witnessed today in four quarters convinced me the Raiders signed one of the best players available with a surprisingly huge gas tank and drive.