Offensive Linemen, the group that many of us treat as the drunken "mistake" we barely remember, while pretending we don't remember it at all. When we are brave enough to contemplate the subject, it is met with excuses. What can we say? Standing next to an overweight person covered in #2, she/they didn't look that bad.
Due to this and despite the fact that, aside from the infusion of two drafted players, the faces look eerily similar to those of last year...there is reason for hope. The one notable exception in familiarity is the absence of the yellow one, Cornell Green.
The main source of inspiration for trepidation is, the impossible to not arrive at perception, that the familiar faces are not connected to the bodies of effective linemen. The one guy whose play universally deserves confidence, Gallery, is also one of the most injury prone players on the team. His health, as well as the rest of his line-mates, is going to be of vital importance to this squad.
This is a half-full time of year. When the Nation gets carried away upon the wings of hope, we can also hang glide on the premise that maybe the two rookies will accelerate their expected learning curves and earn a starting job.
Another home for hope is found in the fact that the line is relatively young and has not had all that much experience together. Offensive linemen, especially in the zone blocking system, need to know how to function together as one. These guys need to stay healthy and build some continuity. If they do, potential may begin to meet reality.
On the glass is a quarter full side of prognosis, the fact that the starters aren't that good, means there won't be much of a drop-off in talent if one of them, other than Gallery, gets hurt.
Which brings us to discussing the men who will be battling for that coveted roster spot. And if you aren't going to make it as the Raiders 10th O-lineman chances are another team won't be picking you up either.
The locks: Gallery, Henderson, Satele, Walker, Veldheer, Campbell,
The good news about this group is the versatility they posses. Most of these guys will be ready to play multiple positions if injuries do occur. It may be a bit of a leap to say Campbell is a lock, as he may end up on the practice squad if he underwhelms, but hey I am feeling reckless...Soup man you are a lock.
The rest: Khalif Barnes, Erik Pears, Alex Parsons, Brandon Rodd, Elliot Vallejo, Allen Smith, Daniel Loper, Chris Morris, Cooper Carlisle.
8 guys 4 spots, a death race to the finish. Maybe the Raiders should sign Jason you'll-always-be-Turkish-to-me Statham. The greatest death racer of them all.
The I'll-make-a-roster-when-LeBron-plays-another-game-for-the-Cavs group: Smith, Vallejo, Rodd and Parsons. It's too bad to. No one could touch the Parsons Rodd tandem. Well, no one should want to anyway.
The one dark horse--I had to throw him in, because hell, maybe LeBron has ingested too much of Cleveland's river water--Vallejo. He missed last year after fracturing his kneecap, but prior to that actually impressed enough to hang around the Cardinals roster for a few years. Still, he is facing an uphill climb and uphill climbs are hard with fractured kneecaps.
We then are left with the familiar faces plus one. With the likely starting RG coming out of this group. For those of you keeping score at home, this is not a good sign. They are: Barnes, Pears, Morris, Carlisle and Loper.
It would appear that Pears and Morris have an early advantage, because of the positions they play.
When Walker missed time in OTA's Pears was taking his snaps at RT. It would make sense for them to go with Tackle depth, with Barnes and Campbell making the switch to Guard.
Chris Morris has proven himself to be a serviceable Center and the only other person with real game experience at Center on the roster. He can also fill in at Guard if needed.
Carlisle is getting the reps with the first team so far and he would have to slip to fall off of the roster. Considering he has laid the bar and then sunk it into the ground, it'll be hard for him to slip.
After not being tendered, Barnes was quickly resigned by the Raiders and then promptly moved to Guard. Cable obviously has something in mind for him. Gallery insurance? Maybe and hopefully, just like Derek Zoolander before him, he can overcome his inability to be an ambi-blocker and unseat Carlisle at RG. Either way, I can't imagine the Raiders making him their first free agent signing, only to cut him.
This leaves us with the plus 1, Loper. He has plenty of game experience. Unfortunately, his experience is checkered with less than stellar play and he seems to have jumped on the couch (Tom Cruise doesn't draw now reference) sometime a season or two ago. Still, he did spend about half the year as a starter in 09. Carpe Diem, Loper.
There you have it. It looks to me like Loper is going to have to surpass someone to make this squad. There is a good mix of youth and experience in this group and the Head Coach is supposedly an offensive line guru.
So, here is to hope. Hope that the ZBS begins to click for people like Satele and Henderson. Hope that Walker found his mojo and lost some weight while looking. Hope that someone steps up and claims the RG position. Hope that Gallery has a full season's worth of games in his body.