After the Raiders signed free-agent guard Kelechi Osemele, perhaps the best offensive lineman available this offseason, many analysts projected Oakland would have one of the finest offensive lines in the NFL in 2016.
A Pro Football Focus analysis ranked the Raiders right alongside the Cowboys for having the best blocking unit, noting that, “Credit needs to be given to the Raiders’ front office for turning around the O-line relatively quick and making Derek Carr’s protection a priority.”
But veteran center Rodney Hudson has thrown up a caution flag.
Hudson – who joined the team last offseason as a free agent from the Chiefs – proved to be one of the team’s best additions in 2015. Now back with the team for this week’s start of the offseason program, Hudson says adding Osemele is terrific but at this point any praise for the offensive line is premature.
“You definitely focus on now and put it to the side a little bit because you have to do the work first,” Hudson told the media this week. “It’s a long time until the season starts. We have to continue to work and, like I said, continue to learn, continue to grow in the offense and as a team to be able to perform well.”
Osemele at right guard will join a group of Donald Penn at left tackle, Gabe Jackson at left guard, Hudson at center and either Menelik Watson or Austin Howard at right tackle. In 2015, that group – along with the now-departed J’Marcus Webb at right guard – performed surprisingly well and was a key reason the Raiders offense blossomed.
Now, says Hudson, the unit must continue to get better – especially considering the line faltered a bit late in the season with pass protection.
“We definitely made strides from my first day I was here last year to now,” Hudson said. “(There has) always been that positive energy and everybody’s excited, and I think what we did a good job of last year was just buying in and focusing on working hard. We just have to stay together and keep the course.”