The Raiders' offensive line was widely considered among the NFL's best. Notice the past tense. That group took a step back last season, mirroring the offense as a whole.
The league's largest group, well known for being nasty and technical, didn't meet lofty standards. Pass blocking was still good but not great, and linemen were asked to do different things in the run game that didn't always work out.
New offensive line coach Tom Cable will run a varied blocking scheme to get an expensive group going strong again. The Raiders also drafted athletic tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker, hoping they'll presently challenge for spots and become long-term solutions on the outside.
Center Rodney Hudson pairs well with guards Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele. Expect dominance from them in 2018.
Tackles: Donald Penn, Kolton Miller, Brandon Parker, Breno Giacomini, David Sharpe, Jylan Ware, Vadal Alexander
Guards: Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson, Jon Feliciano, Cameron Hunt, Denver Kirkland, Jordan Simmons, Ian Silberman; Centers: Rodney Hudson, James Stone
Best Of The Bunch: Hudson
A few players could earn the top spot, including Osemele and Jackson. Even those guys would say Hudson makes the line go. Head coach Jon Gruden has praised Hudson at every turn, wowed by his work ethic, football smarts and his ability to make big blocks in space. He's the best pass-blocking center, and backs run well when he creates a gap.
Hudson is the team's best lineman, and someone to can run Gruden's offense well. He's a valuable asset during this scheme transition.
Top Camp Battle: Giacomini vs. Parker vs. Sharpe
We could focus on either tackle spot here. Veteran Donald Penn has made three straight Pro Bowls on the left, though he's returning from foot injury and battling No. 15 overall pick Kolton Miller to protect the blind side. Coaches praise Miller's athleticism, and improved strength could make him a fixture on the left. Don't discount Penn just yet. He's resilient and highly motivated. If he's physically ready and agile, he should get the nod working in an AFC West loaded with savvy pass rushers.
There are major question marks on the right, a common theme entering recent Raiders training camps. Giacomini knows Cable well and has experience on his side. His recent pass blocking stats, however, aren't great.
Asking Parker to transition from North Carolina A&T to NFL starter may be a tough ask. Cable believes Sharpe can be an excellent right tackle if things start to click. That's still a big if. So it's possible Oakland starts the year with veterans off both flanks, even after using two high picks on tackles.
Long shot: Ian Silberman
The Raiders hoped to sneak Silberman on the practice squad last year, but Indianapolis snatched him off waivers. He ended up on Cleveland's practice squad when the Raiders got him back on their 53-man roster, and he has a real chance to remain there. He can play tackle, guard and center, and spent significant parts of the offseason program on the outside, occasionally with the first team. Having swing players deep on the depth chart can help out in a pinch.
This group has the personnel and work ethic to be an excellent offensive line. Position coach Tom Cable must find the right man at right tackle (and help him schematically) and get the run game back on track. There are some questions on the outside, but the interior line might be the league's best.