The problem is fairly obvious—the Raiders are struggling with their pass blocking. The symptoms are too many penalties and too much pressure on the quarterback. Without a workable solution, the Raiders will not be going to the playoffs any time soon.
The reason behind the problem is much harder to determine. Let's look at the options.
Power blocking or ZBS?
The Raiders have talked about adding a power element to their game. The return of monstrous Langston Walker is a sign of belief in brawn rather than technique.
However, head coach Tom Cable is an advocate of the Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS) and was high on the under-sized Sampson Satele being able to make a difference, but this hasn't worked out.
Oakland has a confused scheme with too many round pegs in square holes, but is this the key reason?
Gallery the wounded leader
Robert Gallery is the undisputed leader of the Oakland O-line. He may even make the Pro Bowl if he can stay healthy.
But the bottom line is Gallery cannot stay healthy. Injuries have blighted recent seasons and it prevents Oakland building a consistent front five. Maybe injuries are the underlying problem.
Coach Cable has been able to make average linemen into NFL starters. He is a firm believer in Zone Blocking and has often talked about being able to plug a player in and off you go.
Have the Raiders lost sight that the battle is often won in the trenches? Are the Raiders not spending enough time fixing the problem? Is there an assumption that Coach Cable can fix any problem with the O-line?
Has the Raiders o-line changed for the better?
In recent seasons the Raiders have completely over-turned their skill positions, spending big on free agents and the draftees.
In the meantime, the O-line has suffered. No big blockbuster free agent center, and no first round left tackle since Gallery in 2004. In fact the Raiders' modus operandi has been to pick up later round draft picks and other team's discards.
Are the Raiders putting enough emphasis on the front five?
Too old and too young?
Outside of Robert Gallery, the Raiders currently have very few linemen in their prime. They are either too young (Veldheer, Campbell) or too old (Carlisle, Walker).
Oakland have not got the blend right. Can they succeed with the current linemen or do they need to shake things up?
Do the Raiders get a fair go?
Since the Holy Roller game all those years ago, there has always been a suspicion that officials have had it in for the Raiders. The "Tuck Rule" game is a typical example of how Oakland seems to come off second best when it comes to 50-50 decisions.
In the season opener in Tennessee, the Titans' D-linemen were able to get into the Raiders backfield untouched. It seemed they knew the snap count better than Mario Henderson. Was the quarterback giving away the snap? Were the Raiders too predictable? Or were the Titans just plain and simple offside?
If a few early calls were made against the Titans, would it have been an easier day for the O-line?
When will Oakland get a fair chance?
What is the answer?
Oakland needs to improve the O-line. That is not in dispute. But as to what the real problem is...that's where Coach Cable has to earn his corn.