Oakland Raiders 2011: Focus on the Offensive Line to Build "Bully"
Speed is far and away the number one quality that the Oakland Raiders are traditionally known for. From Cliff Branch to Jacoby Ford, the Raiders have always put out one of the fastest, if not the fastest, teams in the league.
From 1960 until about 2003, that speed has usually kept the Raiders at or around the top of the league. Since 2003, the Raiders have definitely been the fastest team in the league but not close to the top of the league.
Aside from a solid quarterback, there has been a couple of things missing. If you look at all the great Raider teams, you'll know that they were great on the offensive and defensive lines.
Last year, the Raiders had a murderers' row of a defensive line and a horrible offensive line. The result there was the definition of average, as the Raiders were 8-8 on the season.
The Raiders now need to focus on that offensive line to make it great again. The moves they've made mixed with the moves I'm suggesting will make this offensive line dominant, making the Raiders a dominant team.
Turn the page to see what they are.
Good Move: Wisniewski Added
The Raiders didn't have a first-round pick in 2010, so their first pick was Stefen Wisniewski from Penn State in the second round. Wisniewski is 6'3", 315 pounds, uses good technique to get leverage and has a huge mean streak.
This likely means the end for the undersized Samson Satele so the middle of the Raider offensive line won't be pushed back. It sure doesn't hurt that his uncle, Raiders legend Steve Wisniewski, will coach him, and his father had a stint in the NFL after playing at Penn State.
Sure, the bloodlines are great, and Stefen Wisniewski has been taught well all his life, but that isn't the whole story. With the lockout going, players can't talk to coaches, so the rookies will suffer because they don't have enough knowledge of the playbook.
Wisniewski can't talk to uncle Steve because he's on the Raiders' coaching staff, but he can talk to his father. Uncle Steve Wisniewski can't talk to Stefen, but he sure can talk to his brother (Stefen's father).
Raider rule No. 1: Cheating is encouraged.
Raider rule No. 2: See rule No. 1.
Stefen Wisniewski will be ready on opening day.
Good Move: Letting Go of a Bust
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Robert Gallery was a colossal bust.
He was an average guard at best that wasn't consistent in performance or availability to be solid.
When Gallery was hurt, Daniel Loper (pictured) played right guard in his stead and played well. Loper showed he was a better pass blocker too.
After this, Gallery had the nerve to ask for $8 million when the $6 million he made in 2010 was too much for a replaceable player. Since then, the Raiders have parted ways with Gallery and signed Loper to a $2 million a year contract.
With the $4 million savings, the Raiders can look to fill other needs.
Good Move: Looking to Give Youngster an Opportunity
Bruce Campbell is an athletic freak that didn't even get a chance to show what he can do while teammate Jared Veldheer got chances. I'm not saying Veldheer shouldn't have gotten chances, but Campbell should have at least gotten one chance.
There's no need to compare him to Veldheer because Campbell sat behind the likes of Cooper Carlisle. Carlisle was the guy at right guard that was pushed back by defensive tackles on almost every play.
From Hue Jackson's comments, it now sounds like Campbell will get a chance to start at left tackle next to Wisniewski at center in 2011.
At 6'7", 320 pounds, Campbell won't have the same disadvantages the undersized Carlisle has.
Suggestion: Bring in Jared Gaither
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Jared Gaither showed signs of one day becoming a dominant, franchise left tackle in the NFL. After being taken in the supplemental draft out of Maryland, Gaither allowed just five sacks in his first two years as a starter.
He was in a vertical offense in Baltimore, where he gave quarterback Joe Flacco extra time to get the ball down the field. That is exactly what the Raiders will ask of their left tackle, as Jackson and Saunders were a part of that offensive staff in Baltimore.
Playing in Jackson and Saunders' offense is also why I'd pick Gaither over Matt Light and Willie Colon after the lockout.
He'd come right in and be better than any lineman on the team now!
Bringing in Gaither can turn Veldheer into a Pro Bowler.
Jared Veldheer struggled mightily in pass protection at left tackle because he doesn't have the hand punch. He was a dominant run blocker and won't see the opposition's best pass rusher on the right side, so there he should move.
Veldheer would be a dominant right tackle, where run blocking is very important to right-handed football teams. Right-handed just means the quarterback is right-handed; therefore the tight end and most of the running plays are to the right.
Remember, Gallery did just fine when they moved him to right tackle early in his career. He was often beaten when the Raiders tried to play him at left tackle, the position he was drafted to play.
Gallery has the same weakness as Veldheer.
They both have no hand punch.
If my suggestions are mixed with what the Raiders have already done, a "bully" will be formed in Raider Nation.
The offensive line will look like this: Gaither (LT), Campbell (LG), Wisniewski (C), Loper (RG), Veldheer (RT).
They will average 6'6", 330 pounds.
The 2010 offensive line averaged 6'6", 313 pounds.
2011 will be much more bully-like and should play on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage.