Promising as the youthful Oakland Raiders may be in 2015, they still have plenty of issues. Among them are a terrifying lack of depth, inexperience and even questionable starters at a few key positions.
All three of those things hold true about an offensive line that is vital for the Raiders offensive turnaround. If things don’t change very soon , it could spell doom for a hopeful team.
Last season, the Raiders were one of the worst rushing teams in the league. Until they turned to running back Latavius Murray late in the season, it was worse. They were still historically bad.
The Raiders still finished last in the league with 1,240 rushing yards (by 68 yards) and last in rushing touchdowns with four. They ran the ball just 337 times, so there is evidence they knew just how bad they were. They were 27th in the league in yards per carry, averaging just 3.7 yards every time a running back was handed the ball.
No team has ever had less than or equal to 1,240 rushing yards on 337 carries with four or fewer touchdowns in a 16-game. Aside from the strike-shortened 1982 season, it hasn’t happened at all since the Boston Yanks did it in 1947 in a 12-game season.
Despite these facts, the Raiders only noticeable upgrade on the offensive line is center Rodney Hudson. Left tackle Donald Penn returns as does second-year left guard Gabe Jackson. The troublesome right side appeared to be solidifying before right tackle Menelik Watson tore his Achilles Tendon in the team’s third preseason game.
Austin Howard, who was one of the worst right guards in the league last season, will step in at right tackle. Howard was an average to below average right tackle in the past for the New York Jets, so there is hope that he won’t be a complete liability.
At right guard, the Raiders will start J’Marcus Webb, who has never played guard or on the right side full-time. Webb didn’t play a snap on the offensive line last season and had just 108 in five games in 2013. Again, there is hope as Webb was a decent left tackle the last time Mike Tice was his offensive line coach, as he is with the Raiders.
Penn and Hudson should be above average at worst and the team is hopeful about Jackson. There’s just a lot of uncertainty with the starters, especially on the right side. There’s also a major concern about depth behind those starters.
Aside from the likely starting five, none of the reserves are even guaranteed a roster spot. Jon Feliciano was a fourth-round pick, so the Raiders will likely keep working with him. He can be a backup at both guard spots and potentially center.
If ever a team needed to scan the waiver wire for upgrades on the offensive line, it’s the Raiders. Unfortunately, good offensive linemen are in short supply. Immediate help isn’t on the way.
The Raiders will have to pray for good healthy and that the linemen improve as the season goes along. It’s the offensive line that will help the Raiders have a productive running game to help quarterback Derek Carr. It’s the offensive line that will also have to protect Carr long enough so he can push the ball down the field more regularly.
Last season, Carr’s was one of the worst deep throwing quarterbacks in the league. A big reason was that most of those attempts were deep “shot” plays. It wasn’t the offensive line protecting Carr for the extra half-second as a receiver shook loose of coverage.
If there is one thing that’s going to derail the Raiders this season, it’s the offensive line. If the offensive line doesn’t gel soon, it could be yet another long season for the silver and black despite their many other improvements.