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Jared Veldheer is now starting at center
A recurring theme in Raider articles this offseason (and many previous) is concern over the offensive line. The line was not good last year, heavily contributing to the injuries and poor play of both Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye.
They also were pushed off the ball in running plays and failed to open any semblance of running room most of the season.
This offseason, the Raiders drafted OT Jared Veldheer from tiny Division II Hillsdale in the third round, and combine superstar Bruce Campbell of Maryland in the fourth round.
Veldheer has played so well and learned so quickly in the offseason that he's replaced the ineffective Samson Satele at center and will start against the Titans on Sunday.
Each lineman has their own unique pressures to worry about this weekend:
"Super" Mario Henderson, LT
Henderson is tasked with protecting Campbell's blindside, something he did mostly well during the preseason.
The one mistake he made was huge and almost knocked Campbell out of the game. Henderson is under pressure to show that he can handle the speed rushers from Tennessee, as they are light on the edge but quick and like to blitz their corners and safeties as well. I think Henderson is up to the task
"Big" Bob Gallery, LG
Gallery's job is simple: Keep doing what you're doing, and for goodness sakes, stay healthy! When Gallery was in the starting lineup last season, the Raiders averaged almost 20 more yards rushing per game than when he was sidelined.
He's under pressure to be himself and avoid injury, period.
Jared Veldheer, C
Drafted as a LT prospect, an injury to Satele and his inability to block bigger, stronger tackles had Cable give Veldheer a try at center. It worked out so well that the youngster is now the starter, having shown not only the skills but the intelligence to play such a demanding position.
The Titans fans are rabid, and it's worth noting that Titans road opponents have committed more false start penalties than any other road opponents in the league. For four straight seasons.
So this crowd has an effect.
Veldheer is under tremendous pressure to ensure the right protection calls are made, that the center-quarterback exchanges are clean and efficient, and to keep the line in check in a very loud and hostile environment.
The kid has shown the skill and acumen to be up to the task, but it is certainly a tall order.
Cooper Carlisle, RG
Carlisle's job is simple: pass protect and don't commit any stupid penalties. With the Titans crowd an obvious factor as outlined above, he worries me. He's getting older and slower, and was never a dominant lineman to begin with. Carlisle is under pressure to show he can actually block someone in the passing game and to keep the yellow laundry in the official's belts.
Langston Walker, RT
Big LW doesn't have a whole lot of pressure on him other than the usual a lineman faces. Keep your assignment and stay disciplined. Walker has actually looked good in both pass protection and the running game, and should only get better as the season wears on.
He's under pressure to provide help to Carlisle, who has shown often this preseason and last season that he needs it frequently.