The Raiders have made no bones about their intentions to run the ball this season. A big part of the success of the run game is dependent upon the interior offensive line. And as we saw last season, they are also key to keeping a pocket for the quarterback (whether he actually stays in that pocket or not).
This off-season, the Raiders made a concerted effort to shore up the offensive line and particularly the interior offensive line. But how does it stack up against the offensive lines of the past decade? Let's see...
That's right, this group has the makings of being the best interior line the Raiders have seen in at least a decade. Barnes played a decent bit of guard last season despite being thrust into the position late in the season. He will now have a full off-season at the position which will only help. Rookie third round pick, Gabe Jackson, will be given the chance to beat him out for the starting job or have a season to acclimate to the NFL as a swing guard. Stefen Wisniewski is the only sure returning offensive lineman on this team and rightfully so. He continues to improve his play since taking over as the full time starting center two seasons ago. Austin Howard was the team's first official free agent signing this off-season and he comes over as a big, mauling offensive tackle switching to guard. Add Kevin Boothe to the mix and the Raiders have depth and insurance in case of injury to any of the starters. A deep and talented group.
After a year in the guard spots, Gallery and Carlisle had found their footing and were playing considerably well. Grove also had a decent season from the center position. Guarding for Jamarcus Russell was no easy task either. Even so the Raiders top three rushers put up 1773 yards. Helping matters tremendously was the health of Gallery and Carlisle who both started every game that season. Grove started 12 games.
3. Robert Gallery, Samson Satele, Cooper Carlisle (2009-10)
Gallery was not the ‘can't miss' left tackle he was supposed to be but he was a damn fine guard. The difference between how the Raiders performed with and without him was legion. This became evident in 2009 when Gallery was injured and replaced by Chris Morris. Satele was considered too small for the position but he held his own and he was a tough dude to be certain. Cooper Carlisle had a starting guard spot on the Raiders for many seasons for a reason. He was a steady performer who took care of business well into his thirties. He would have two more seasons after this one and he started every single game both of these seasons.
4. Stefen Wisniewski, Samson Satele, Cooper Carlisle (2011)
There were many who would have liked this lineup to remain such as opposed to the team letting Satele go and moving Wisniewski to center where they intended upon drafting him. Hard to disagree with that opinion, Wiz was just a rookie and he was playing quite well at the position which his uncle Steve carved out a Hall of Fame worthy career. He replaced Gallery who was allowed to leave for Seattle and with Satele still onboard, it just made sense to put Wiz at left guard for the time being. See the above explanation for the value of Satele and Carlisle.
5. Cooper Carlisle, Stefen Wisniewski, Mike Brisiel (2012)
With Wiz moving inside to his destined position at center, and the team making Mike Brisiel their big free agent addition, Carlisle moved to left guard. Wiz's transition from left guard to center was fairly smooth. Carlisle also was decent switching to the left side. It was Brisiel who brought the group down. He came to Oakland from Houston along with the zone blocking scheme. He was supposed to be able to execute the zone and he might have but he was hampered all season with an ankle injury. Not surprising considering he has been injury prone his entire career.
6. Robert Gallery, Jeremy Newberry, Cooper Carlisle (2007)
It was a complete overhaul for this line. The first season Gallery playing at guard, and Cooper Carlisle was brought over from the Broncos' zone scheme and asked to play the power scheme. It was Newberry's only season in Oakland and his last full season as a starter in the NFL. They were a tremendous improvement over the previous season and helped Justin Fargas get 1009 rushing yards which was his only 1000-yard season.
Not a group anyone will remember in Raiders lore. 2005 was the last season Badger and Stone started an NFL game, and Treu is best known as the guy thrust into starting the Super Bowl for the Raiders when Barrett Robbins went AWOL. But they did manage to help open holes for Lamont Jordan to have 1025 yards - his only 1000-yard season of his career.
8. Lucas Nix/Khalif Barnes, Stefen Wisniewski, Mike Brisiel (2013)
The play of Wisniewski is the only saving grace with this group. And Lucas Nix was the worst interior lineman in the NFL last season. Barnes replaced him late in the season and things improved but how could they not? Brisiel was below average and wearing down. This may have been his last season in the NFL.
9. Barry Sims, Jake Grove, Kevin Boothe (2006)
Sims was playing at left guard when he should have been at left tackle, Grove was in his first full season as the starting center, and Boothe was sixth round rookie thrown in as a starter. This entire line was a shambles.