The Trenches: The Start of the Oakland Raiders Return to Glory
Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking.
--Ferdinand Foch-- at the Battle of the Marne
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.
These quotes made by military leaders have been used to motivate troops. More importantly, they were directed at the soldiers in the trenches, the grunts as they are known.
The trenches, is where it all begins. As a military veteran, I look at the offensive line of the Oakland Raiders and compare it to the ground troops in any combat situation. These are the guys that don’t receive the glory, but make it all happen.
Let’s take a look at the history of the Oakland Raiders ground troops so to speak:
January 9, 1977
Art Shell*, Gene Upshaw*, Dave Dalby, George Buehler and John Vella.
January 25, 1981
Art Shell*, Gene Upshaw Dave Dalby, Mickey Marvin and Henry Lawrence.
January 22, 1984
Bruce Davis, Charley Hannah, Dave Dalby, Mickey Marvin and Henry Lawrence*.
January 26, 2003
Barry Sims, Mo Collins, Matt Stinchcomb, Barrett Robbins*+, Frank Middleton, and Lincoln Kennedy*+.
*Denotes selection to the Pro Bowl
+Denotes selection as a 1st Team All-Pro
These are the starting offensive lines of the Oakland Raiders in their last four Superbowl appearances. There is something that I want to point out. There was a Pro Bowl player on each of these lines and on the 2002 squad, two of them were 1st Team All-Pro as well.
When I look at this history, it says one very simple thing to me. You CANNOT win in the NFL if you do not have the right soldiers in the trenches. The Oakland Raiders realized this long ago, but for some reason have taken this piece out of the puzzle and thus, the present situation of the team.
Last year the offensive line surrendered 49 sacks. That’s a little over 3 sacks a game. That is ridiculous! You need to have some great talent up front, so the so called “Skilled Positions” can produce. Since I did mention the skilled positions, let’s look at the Raiders last three first round draft picks and their contracts:
Jamarcus Russell – Six Years 61 Million (32 Million Guaranteed)
Darren McFadden – Six Years 60 Million (26 Million Guaranteed)
Darrius Hayward Bey – Five Years 38 Million (23.5 Million Guaranteed)
That is a total of 81.5 Million guaranteed in salary, but what do we have to protect them, open holes for them and ensure that they can perform at the level we need them to in order to win? We have to have the right guys up front.
People always go back to 2004 when the Raiders drafted Robert Gallery and Jake Grove with the first two picks and say this is the reason the team has not drafted offensive lineman high. I have one thing to say to that, “Why did you stop looking?” I think Gallery will be in the Pro Bowl next year and Jake was better than a lot of us thought he was. Look at how many times they had to make changes at the center position last year and take a look at 08’s rushing yards compared to last years (2008 – 1987 Yards, 2009 – 1701 Yards).
This years’ draft is quickly approaching and it is LOADED with offensive line talent. There are four or five offensive tackles that have first round talent. Bruce Campbell from Maryland is an absolute MONSTER! This kid is 6”7, 320 LBS and loves to workout. He has a wrestling history, so he knows how to use leverage. I would love to see the Raiders draft this kid and watch him become a Pro Bowl player within a few years.
There are also quite a few talented offensive guards in the draft. I believe we can get a great addition to the team in the latter rounds of the draft. John Jerry (6’5", 350) from Ole Miss, is a massive guard that is a mauler in the run game. Last year, Jerry helped the Rebels rank second in the SEC in rushing and fourth in sacks allowed. Sergio Render (6’3", 320) from Virginia Tech is also a possibility. He is a very athletic guard that is an above average run and pass blocker. He had shoulder surgery over the off season and this may drop his stock some, but don’t get me wrong, this kid is a BEAST!!!
Upgrading the offensive line is the first step and I might add the most important step in getting this team back to its glory days. I have added one final quote that pretty much sums up the way Superbowls are won and who gets the credit. Let’s get back to winning the battles with the right soldiers in the trenches.
Soldiers usually win the battles and generals get the credit for them.
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