Raiders Might be Better Off With Osemele at Guard

Inserting former Raven at guard, rather than tackle -- and keeping Penn -- would seem to be a more expensive but more effective option

When the Raiders signed free-agent offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele last week, they landed a physical player who can play both guard and tackle.

And, many believe Oakland may make Osemele its left tackle and allow Donald Penn, the starter there the past two seasons, to walk as an unrestricted free agent.

But it seems the Raiders might be better off to keep Penn and play Osemele at right guard or right tackle. That’s certainly a more expensive option, because Penn, 32, will require a big payday to stay in the Bay Area.

But from a pure football standpoint, having both Penn and Osemele on the line together would be a nice combo, along with left guard Gabe Jackson and center Rodney Hudson.

As Paul Gutierrez of noted, Osemele could make his biggest impact by moving in at right guard. He’s been ranked as a top-five run blocker among all NFL guards the past two seasons by Pro Football Focus.

His performance as a tackle, however, hasn’t been quite up to that level.

Wrote Gutierrez: “As noted by PFF, pass blocking has not been Osemele’s strength, despite the relative lack of charged sacks, and putting him on the outside as the left tackle would expose his key weakness. Perhaps the Raiders move him to the right side of the line, though that is a lot of money to pay for a right guard.”

Osemele’s deal with the Raiders was reported to be for five years and as much as $60 million. That’s a deal normally given to a left tackle, not a right guard.

While Osemele is young, talented and capable of improving at tackle, Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus wrote after the Raiders signed Osemele that he could make the biggest impact at right guard because of “such limited experience and average results at left tackle.”

Wrote Renner of Osemele’s run-blocking prowess at guard: “He’s led all guards in +1.0 graded blocks (dominant blocks) over the past two seasons with 14. He’ll replace our 70th-ranked guard last season, J’Marcus Webb, to form one of the best guard tandems in football with Gabe Jackson. Over the past two seasons Osemele held the fourth-highest run block grade among all guards.

“All the knocks on him come in pass protection, where he has been right around average for his career. They made him the highest-paid guard in football, but they’ll reap the rewards with what figures to be a dominant running game this fall.”

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