Season review -- Raiders OL

638904.jpg

Season review -- Raiders OL

It was one of the bigger question marks coming into the season and seen as one of the Raiders' biggest weaknesses. The offensive line was being rebuilt on the fly after losing veteran left guard Robert Gallery to free agency, coach Tom Cable to Al Davis' axe and had a second-year player at left tackle and a rookie to replace Gallery. But new O-line coach Bob Wylie molded the line together with more than glue and duct tape in switching from Cable's zone-blocking scheme. In fact, the line was a strength early on as Jason Campbell was only sacked twice through four games. And even after the midseason switch to Carson Palmer under center and losing Darren McFadden to injury and replacing him with Michael Bush, the Raiders still had the No. 11-ranked passing game in the NFL, the No. 7-ranked running game. It all starts up front with the grunts on the O-line.
Grade: B-OFFENSIVE LINEJared Veldheer -- A relatively unknown third-round draft pick coming out of tiny Division-II Hillsdale College in 2010, Veldheer made a huge leap in his second professional season. Charged with protecting the quarterback's blind side, the left tackle's crowning moment was his shutout of Minnesota's Jared Allen, who ended up leading the league with 22 sacks. Veldheer is starting to get national notice, as evidenced by the two All-Pro votes. Not bad for a guy that had a disastrous rookie debutat center.
Stefen Wisniewski -- Initially called the team's starting center from the moment he was drafted in the second round, No. 48 overall, out of Penn State, Li'l Wiz made the transition immediately to left guard and never looked back. But whenever Samson Satele was injured, Wisniewski made a seamless transition and, may observers claim, the Raiders running game operated more smoothly with him at center. An argument could be made that Wisniewski, who played every game, was Oakland's offensive rookie of the year.Samson Satele -- A somewhat surprising re-signing during training camp, it was assumed Satele was long gone, what with the Raiders moving on from Cable's zone-blocking scheme to a more power-blocking setup. Especially since, at 6-feet-3, 300 pounds, Satele is considered small for a center. But the fifth-year veteran helped settle the rest of the line and, though he was banged up, still started 15 games. Will be interesting to see if he returns or if the 6-3, 315-pound Wisniewski moves to center on a full-time basis.Cooper Carlisle -- Another surprise to return, what with his history as a zone-blocker, Carlisle nonetheless returned and had perhaps his finest season in his 12th year as an NFL lineman. In perhaps his finest performance of the season, the right guard limited Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a mere two tackles on Dec. 18. Though Suh would have the last laugh when he blocked Sebastian Janikowski's 65-yard game-winning field-goal attempt. Might Carlisle have a 13th year in him?Khalif Barnes -- Remember when Barnes was brought here in 2009 to stabilize the left tackle position before a broken ankle scuttled those plans? Barnes is a survivor and he has instead found life on the right side of the line, starting all 16 games at right tackle. They say an offensive lineman is best doing his job when you rarely notice him. Unfortunately for him, Barnes had a penchant for picking up penalties in waves. Were referees picking on him due to his reputation, or is there something more at work here?Stephon Heyer -- A locker room cutup in the mold of Barnes, Heyer could also provide steady play at virtually every spot on the offensive line save center. In fact, he started once at left guard when Wisniewski moved to center in place of the injured Satele. That was the night Michael Bush rumbled for 242 all-purpose yards in a primetime affair at San Diego on Nov. 10. As a team, the Raiders rushed for 191 yards against the Chargers. No wonder many thought Oakland was better served with Heyer at LG and Wisniewski at center.Joe Barksdale -- The Raiders' third-round draft pick out of LSU is the team's right tackle of the future and his play did nothing to dissuade that notion. He was active for all 16 games and was a fixture on "jumbo" packages. In fact, he often played on the interior. Barksdale, like Heyer and Barnes before him, is a light-hearted soul in the locker room and fancies himself a deep thinker in Cyberspace with his popular Blog. But on the field, he is all business.Bruce Campbell -- The true mystery of the line. An absolute physical specimen at 6-6, 315 pounds with off-the-charts measurables, Campbell was only active for four games. None since Oct. 9 at Houston. Then-coach Hue Jackson said Campbell, the Raiders' fourth-round draft pick in 2010, simply fell behind in training camp due to injury and never got up to speed with his competition on the line. Still, while Campbell was being groomed as the right guard of the future, he moved back to tackle during the season.

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph hurt his toe in Sunday’s victory over Buffalo, and was still in pain early the next week.

That gave him virtually no shot to play Kansas City on Thursday night with a short week to recover. The Raiders made his omission official on Wednesday, and ruled the first-round pick out of the AFC West clash at Arrowhead Stadium on their official injury report.

Veteran Nate Allen will take his place in the starting lineup. He played well in Joseph’s stead against the Bills, and has the versatility to play back or closer to the line of scrimmage as Joseph did.

The Raiders defense is still ailing on the interior, with defensive tackle Stacy McGee (ankle) ruled out of his second straight contest.

There is slightly better news for Darius Latham, who was deemed questionable after missing two light practices but returning in time for limited work on Wednesday. Getting him back would help a thinned rotation that heavily features Denico Autry, Dan Williams and Jihad Ward, who has struggled some of late.

The Chiefs have a healthy team despite the short week. Receiver Jeremy Maclin will return from a groin injury. Edge rusher Tamba Hali will play despite limted practice work, and defensive tackle Dontari Poe is questionable with a back issue.

Raiders Status Report
Doubtful

LB Shilique Calhoun (knee), S Karl Joseph (toe), DT Stacy McGee (ankle) Questionable
DT Darius Latham (ankle), LG Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Cory James (shoulder)

Chiefs Status Report

Questionable
DT Dontari Poe (back), DE Kendall Reyes (knee)

NOTE: Kansas City’s WR Jeremy Maclin, OLB Tamba Hali and CB Phillip Gaines did not receive an injury designation, meaning they will play.

 

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

The Buffalo Bills were running right through the Oakland Raiders early in Sunday’s contest, a never-ending assault that took its toll on defenders in silver and black.

That was the case for the most optimistic, steadfast member of that unit.

“We were giving up big plays, and I was frustrated,” star edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “Actually, I was pissed off.”

Bruce Irvin sensed a disturbance in the force. The veteran pass rusher knew how to fix it.  A little pep talk would get Mack going again.

“We feed off each other’s energy. … That dude pulls me up. I was feeling a little down towards the middle of the game, and he was like, ‘Come on. We need you. Come on. Let’s go. He pulled me up and kept pushing.”

That wasn’t the turning point in yet another comeback win. It wasn’t the only reason why defense locked Buffalo down during a run of 29 unanswered points.

It showed how strong a friendship Mack and Irvin have formed since the spring, one that helps get the best out of the other. Bonds formed from insatiable work ethic, one evident even in the offseason program.

“We’re both so hungry to be great that it just brought us together,” Irvin said. “When I got here, we talked right away. Khalil and (quarterback Derek Carr) were the first two guys I sat down with, and I told them I was coming over to play with Khalil, to help turn this thing around and become one of the top units in the league. Khalil and I just bonded quickly, and it was like we had been friends forever. It’s like whole thing was meant to be.”

It has turned out to be a productive pairing. There are 15 sacks, 94 other quarterback pressures and eight forced fumbles between Irvin and Mack this season.

Mack has the bulk of those numbers, especially during a second-half run where he has been outright dominant and jumped into the conversation for defensive player of the year. Mack has been involved in four turnovers the last two games, including game-sealing strip sacks while recovering his own fumble in consecutive weeks.

“You all don’t want to talk to Robin,” Irvin quipped. “Batman’s right over there.”

Irvin has used that line after two home victories in a row. The fifth-year pro is more than Mack’s sidekick. He’s on a roll himself, with sacks in three straight games. He uses speed and agility to create pressure off the strongside edge, dealing with left tackles on a consistent basis.

“I’m in a good groove right now,” Irvin said. “Mentality, physically, I’m in a very good place right now. It’s really showing on the field these past couple weeks.”

Irvin has been a productive defender either making plays on his side or driving traffic back towards Mack. It works both ways, with Mack drawing significant attention that often leaves Irvin in more favorable matchups.

The combination has been impactful, especially on a defense that doesn’t’ get pressure from other sources. They’ve been productive in the clutch as well, with six sacks coming in the fourth quarter. Mack has big plays the last two weeks, and Irvin has a big sack late in a victory over Houston in Mexico City.

The Raiders defense is improving, and having Irvin rushing strong recently helps Mack and the entire Raiders defense.

“He’s always been in a good groove, but there are things going well for this defense,” Mack said. “I’m on the other side, and you have coverage going well. (Opponents) try to do all the chipping and those things that play a factor in doing what we do. The fact that he’s rolling right now is not a surprise.”