What a Concept, Upgrade The Trenches and The Team Wins

jeremy barilCorrespondent IJune 13, 2010

DENVER - DECEMBER 20:  Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable celebrates a victory over the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 20-19.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Since Tom Cable has been named interim head coach he's been preaching the need for upgrading the trenches. Prior to the 2009 NFL Draft he was talking about wanting a Cadillac left tackle and that there were a few in the draft he had his eyes on. Prior to the 2010 Draft he stated there are really only 10 or so really good tackles in the NFL right now, and the position needed to be upgraded along Oakland's offensive line. 

Other times he's discussed the need to upgrade the defensive line as well. Time and again he states the play in the trenches needs to be improved. Finally, during this offseason the Raiders have made enough moves to finally have added some depth, starting ability, and future in the trenches. 

Finally after a couple years of frustration, it appears Cable is finally getting at least some wishes met with some upgrades along the offensive and defensive lines this past offseason through the draft and free agency. 

The Raiders finally replaced Cornell Green with Langston Walker and/or possibly Edwin "Jared" Veldheer, who has the capability of at least being a good starting RT in the league. He's going to have to try to unseat left tackle Mario Henderson before the Raiders will attempt to see him at right tackle unless he's close to beating him out, and the Raiders want him to grow a little and make him sit and learn.

If by the end of training camp or preseason Oakland believes Veldheer is the better left tackle prospect then obviously he should start, but I believe he's going to have a difficult time unseating Sometime Super Mario. If this is the case, Oakland will have to move him to right tackle creating a great group of bookend tackles for the next 10 years provided some time Mario decides to be every time Super Mario, which he's totally capable of after showing everyone he can dominate against the NFL's best defensive ends. 

I'm not sure about Veldheer on the left side, but I believe he has the build, strength, intelligence (he entered tiny Hillsdale College to be a med student, not have NFL aspirations), and upside (considering how he played at the Senior Bowl as the week wore on) to become something special. In my mind, I see Sebastian Vollmer who surprised everyone last year in NE's system. He was a great fit and Veldheer could be a great fit in Oakland. 

Bruce Campbell has the athletic skills, intelligence, and agility to be a rock solid right guard in the NFL and really help the Oakland offense pound the ball. With Bruce Campbell and current right tackle Langston Walker, Oakland will have 655 lbs on the right side of the line behind Hue Jackson's preferred power sets. If he can stay healthy and learn the system, he'll become a huge upgrade over Cooper Carlisle, a trooper who is on the outs because his position needs to be upgraded. 

Finally, releasing Gerrard Warren and his lack of work ethic finally rid the Raiders of players who weren't giving it there all. Replacing Warren with defensive tackle John Henderson is an immediate upgrade on the run defense. On obvious rushing downs Tommy Kelly is finally going to wreak havoc in the backfield because he'll have someone taking on the double team. If Henderson and Heard can rotate, stay fresh, and take on the double team; the defensive ends are going to make a lot of noise in the backfield. 

With the addition of defensive end/tackle Lamaar Houston, Oakland has added a freak of nature who has the possibility of being both a Pro Bowl and Defensive Rookie of the Year-type player with his size and speed. Having both Richard Seymour and Houston on the ends will make it impossible for teams to run on the outside. 

With the addition of Mike Wauffle as the defensive line coach, it makes sense that the team is going to be loaded at defensive end. Seymour, Houston, Matt Shaughnessey, Trevor Scott, and Quintin Groves make up a rock solid group of defensive ends. However, Scott and Groves are only going to be used on obvious passing downs because their speed will be mismatches and the other three are stud run-stuffing defensive ends. 

For those of you who like myself who have been complaining about the trenches since 2006 when in the opening game against San Diego they looked like the worse offensive line I'd ever seen in my live, and obviously end up as one of the worst if not the worst offensive line ever. 

Finally it's happening on both sides. With the additions of John Henderson, Kellen Heard, Edwin "Jared" Veldheer, and Bruce Campbell, and the removal of Cornell Green with the addition of Langston Walker at right tackle, it's possible Oakland finally has made some significant upgrades in the trenches. 

The trenches win the battle. If you lose in the trenches you lose the battle. If you beat the hell out of them, then you excel in this league. Oakland finally has the ability to finally make a fight in the trenches with having a legitimate chance at winning because of the trenches.


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