Just a few years ago, the Raiders’ offensive line was judged among the best in the NFL.
In 2016, much of Oakland’s success was generated by the group up front, anchored by Donald Penn at left tackle, Kelechi Osemele at left guard, Rodney Hudson at center and Gabe Jackson at right guard. Even Austin Howard played well at right tackle when Menelik Watson went down.
Now, as the Raiders prepare to open training camp in late July, the team hopes a reconfigured O-line can be the foundation of a turnaround from a 4-12 season to compete in the AFC West.
The Raiders brought in former Patriots standout Trent Brown to play right tackle and signed ex-Pro Bowler Richie Incognito to compete with Denzelle Good at left guard. And, the Raiders hope Kolton Miller – healthy again after an injury-marred rookie season – will be better at left tackle.
But not everyone is convinced this group can be a plus in 2019.
This week, the analytic website Pro Football Focus ranked the Raiders offensive line as the seventh-worst in the NFL heading into training camp, at No. 26 overall.
Wrote PFF: "This was an offensive line that was a top-five unit as recently as two years ago, yet, here we are. Kolton Miller returns at left tackle after one of the worst seasons we’ve ever seen from a rookie offensive lineman, but the right side stands to see at least some improvement after the Raiders made Trent Brown the highest-paid tackle in the league.
"The one bright spot for this offensive line shines from center Rodney Hudson, who has finished first among centers in pass-blocking grade in each of the last four seasons and hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 17 of the 2017 season."
How important will it be for this offensive line to play well in 2019?
Consider this: In 2018, Derek Carr’s passer rating under pressure was just 58.1, which ranked 25th of 33 qualified quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. When he wasn’t under pressure, Carr’s passer rating was 104.8.
And, last season, Carr was under constant pressure and was sacked a career-high 52 times.
If this re-made line plays well, so will Carr and the Raiders offense.