Last season, even with a horrible offensive line, our rushing yardage was still 10th in the league.
10th...is that possible?
With a rotating fullback position due to injuries, Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, and Darren McFadden combined for the 10th best running game last year, with a line that looked like swiss cheese at times.
Russell was harried, rushing passes, or getting flushed out of the pocket. Other times, a good start would be killed when Kwame Harris would false start, someone would flinch, or any number of bad things would occur.
Some could guess our best offensive lineman was Zach Miller, keeping the pocket open when the linemen would fail.
Oakland knew they were going to need help if they were going to keep Russell healthy and upright.
Going into the offseason, Oakland addressed some of these needs by removing one problem—Harris. Another problem could be gone too, as Cornell Green's actions got him arrested. He fell into a media blackout, never to resurface.
Oakland then went to work, looking for key pieces to rebuild the line with. Khalif Barnes was brought in, and Jake Grove was replaced by Samson Satele. Erik Pears adds some depth at tackle, as well.
In all, for both the Raiders and the AFC West, this line becomes important for three reasons: first, with time, Russell could hit his targets going deep down-field instead of hurrying to get off a throw that has little chance of being caught. Llast year, Russell would get flushed out of the pocket, fumble, or wind up being sacked, while the receivers had failed to reach the best possible deep location.
If you have a receiver who can outrun your opponent's coverage, what good is he if you can't hook up with him due to the line breaking down?
Secondly, it improves the running game. This can't be stressed enough, because if Russell or his receivers have a bad day, then it's up to the running game to not just take time off the clock, but also score points.
The Raiders have two RBs that can score if they see daylight, but if the plays are disrupted behind the line, or if the line fails to create a hole, this squad's day gets a lot longer. An added bonus for these three was the Raiders signing of Lorenzo Neal.
Lastly, the offensive line should settle the QB controversy. If Russell is going to fail, let him fail because he can't do it. Don't let him get hurt, be out for 3-4 weeks, and then start a merry-go-round of Russell starting, then Jeff Garcia, until the end of the year.
If the Raiders' offensive line can keep things running for this offense, they can score points. Give Russell the time he had in the last two weeks last season for a full year, and it's anyone's guess on where this team will finish.
I'd say at least 8-8. If they reach 9-7, they'll be in the playoffs.
But if the line fails to stop the sacks, Russell spends most of his game scrambling out of trouble and can't get into a pattern of good solid playing, expect a long year and a few calls to the TV repairman.