Raiders Offense Needs a Healthy Kelechi Osemele at Guard

His return to the lineup from injury gave the Raiders a boost in win over the Broncos, and he'll play again this Sunday vs. the Chiefs

How important is Kelechi Osemele to the Raiders’ offense?

Very important.

The left guard, who’s received Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition over his seven-year NFL career, returned to the lineup Monday night in a 27-14 victory over the Denver Broncos after missing several games with an injury. In his absence, the offensive line at times struggled. But with Osemele back in the lineup, the Raiders were much more efficient.

Wrote Mike Guerrelli of the analytic website Pro Football Focus: “Osemele returned to the lineup in Week 17 and did not allow a pressure in 31 pass-block snaps.” PFF gave Osemele the fourth-highest grade on offense vs. the Broncos, and it’s no coincidence that Doug Martin rushed for a season-best 107 yards and quarterback Derek Carr had a bit more time to make some plays.

Austin Knoblauch of wrote that the Raiders’ line “consistently stymied the Broncos’ pass rush, creating big lanes for Martin to burst through.”

Osemele had been sidelined since Week 13, and he didn’t like it. He said it had been frustrating.

“That felt great,” he said of getting to block the Broncos Monday night. “Man, I can’t even explain it. Like in my chest, I just felt really good. I felt like I needed to get back out there.”

In the past, Osemele and other veterans on the line such as Donald Penn and Rodney Hudson, have loved it when the Raiders made the run game a priority. It felt like that again vs. the Broncos, said Osemele, with Martin getting plenty of action.

“That was the type of game I felt like we really specialize at as an offensive line,” said Osemele. “It’s always good to be able to do that, to feel like you’re doing that for your team. It’s a great feeling, man. It’s a really good feeling.”

Osemele is expected to be in the lineup again Sunday when the 4-11 Raiders travel to Kansas City for a season-finale matchup with the 11-4 Chiefs. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.

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