....or "We Got 99 Problems (And the O-Line Is the Main One)"
If yesterday's debacle in Nashville taught Raider Nation anything, it confirmed our collective worst fears about the offensive line. It truly was offensive.
So...how to fix it? I'm going to explore two options: fixing from within and help from outside.
Here’s how I would try to fix the O-line with the pieces we have:
Barnes is nothing spectacular, but he has at least shown he can be a successful left tackle in this league, which is more than one can say for
Baby Huey Mario Henderson.
Gallery at left guard is self-explanatory and Loper is the best option for backup.
I wouldn’t pull the plug on the Veldheer at center experiment just yet. I’d see how he handles the next two games. First, going against the Rams, who don’t exactly have a spectacular defensive interior, should give him some good experience. Second, going against Arizona’s 3-4 in week three will let us know if he can handle the big nose tackles. If he continues to struggle, then it’s time to put Satele back in.
Walker’s at right guard would be putting him back where he looked good last year. His size would be an asset in the “phone booth” and his lack of speed would be disguised to some degree.
Henderson at right tackle would allow him to concentrate on his strength–run blocking–as well as get him away from the speed rushers he can’t handle as a left tackle. Plus, it would allow Campbell to see the rushers coming if (or, if history is any indication, when) they do get by Mario.
That’s the best solution I can offer with the horses we’ve currently got in the stable.
Those horses, however, clearly aren't thoroughbreds. Let's look at the cavalry we could potentially try to call in for help:
Justin Hartwig: He's a proven, experienced center who was only cut by the Steelers because 1) Maurkice Pouncey is awesome and 2) they simply couldn't justify Hartwig's salary as a backup. If Veldheer can't hack it, I'd bring in Hartwig immediately. This to me is a no-brainer.
There are two other potential additions, but acquring them is problematic because they're currently under contract to other teams. However, both of these guys are, at present, on the outs with their clubs and they don't look to be on the ins anytime soon, if ever.
Looking at this year’s upcoming draft, outside of the first round, it’s a pretty weak crop. So, if I were GM, I’d be on the phone to AJ Smith in San Diego and Belichick in New England offering every draft pick I could to get Marcus McNeill and/or Logan Mankins. If there’s a year to trade away all your draft picks, 2011 is it.
Granted, major problems stand in the way of both those trades. San Diego probably wouldn't have much interest in trading a franchise left tackle to a division rival and New England seemingly wouldn't been too keen on helping the Raiders get better, since they own our first round draft pick.
But, it's worth a shot. At worst, they each can say "No, thanks." I hope Al picks up the phone sometime today and at least tries. Besides, we also have some pieces they might be interested in. Trevor Scott would be an ideal fit as a 3-4 OLB and both New England and San Diego could use a pass rush upgrade. Then too, Michael Huff might be attractive trade bait. Granted, it would leave us weak at free safety, but I'd rather be weak there than along the O-line. The team is already known to be willing to move Thomas Howard. The point I'm trying to make here is...we have some options.
Those are my suggestions. Got any of your own? Feel free to share 'em.