Jack Del Rio said early on when he was hired that he didn't want the Raiders offense to be put on Derek Carr's arm. Then the season came and that's exactly what happened. Some watch that and blame play calling, but Del Rio was often pointing out that running the ball is something a team has to earn.
In order to earn those run plays, the Raiders needed to ensure they had the blockers up front to do it. With that goal in mind, they went hard after free agent lineman Kelechi Osemele in free agency, making him by far the highest paid guard in the NFL. He lines up next to Rodney Hudson who the team made the highest paid center in the NFL this time last year.
While the line's new nickname "Carr Insurance" is going around, newly re-signed left tackle Donald Penn wants to remind everyone that the major benefits to bulking up the offensive line with guys like Osemele will come on ground.
"I think it will help us with the consistency of our running game," Penn said of Osemele's addition. "It will open a lot of things up. We won't have to be so one dimensional. It will open up a lot of things. The run game was good last year, but the problem was more consistency. He's a great run blocker, I think he's going to help bring consistency into the run game, and that's what we need."
This has to be music to Latavius Murray's ears. He was already coming off a season in which he ran for 1066 yards and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as an alternate. Now he can envision more carries and bigger holes to shoot through.
Osemele weighs in at 330 pounds, completing a goliath offensive line featuring four starters at 330 pounds or heavier. The lightest of the bunch is Hudson at 300 pounds.
Questions still remain, such as if Penn can continue to perform at a high level at the age of 33 and how Gabe Jackson or Osemele will perform with a switch from left guard to right guard. Neither have ever lined up on the right side, so it will be a transition regardless of which of them lines up there.
Even still, with the offensive line finally complete, they are being widely lauded on paper as one of the best offensive lines in the league.
"Sky's the limit," said Penn. "But one thing we gotta do, is we can't talk about it, we gotta go out there and put in the work and do it and show the world that we're really about it. I think we have the guys to be one of the best Olines in the league and lead this team. One thing I know we're gonna do is we're gonna lead by example. I know the rest of the guys on my team are gonna follow. Looking at these guys we got and I can't wait to get started working with these guys."
Penn's excitement is palpable considering just how close he came to not returning at all. He had hoped to have gotten a new contract from the Raiders long before now and was about to make a trip to New York, ready to move on and sign with the Giants if they wanted him.
"I was packed up and everything," Penn said. "I was planning on going at like 7:30 the next morning. I was packed and ready to go. It wasn't ‘how close', I was going."
"I just felt like I wanted to see what New York had to offer and what they were going to talk about, to see what their plan was. And luckily the Raiders didn't give us a chance to go see that."
With 11 years in the league, Penn is the most veteran player on this team, outside of kicker Sebastian Janikowksi. Penn will be asked to be a leader as part of what is probably the most talented group overall on the team.
"We just want everyone to follow our lead and we're gonna try and lead by example and get this thing going. There's a lot of excitement in the air and we are going to be the focal point of the offense as leaders."
I don't see anyone in this offense having an issue with following this mammoth offensive line's lead.