Returning to full strength for camp today was Raiders biggest offseason addition, Keleche Osemele. His return offers a reminder of just how dominating this team’s interior offensive line really is. With Osemele at left guard, Rodney Hudson at center, and Gabe Jackson at right guard.
"They’re strong guys, they’re athletic, they got a lot of attitude, they don’t like to get beat," Osemele said of he and his interior cohorts. "Anytime you have that, you’re not going to get beat often."
The coaches were looking forward to getting the pads on last week to get the first really look at this offensive line perform. But Osemele wasn’t able to take the field that first day in pads, so it would have to wait. The second day in pads, he was not at full strength with a wrap around his left calf.
Finally today, he appeared back to full strength with the first team, and was he ever dominating.
At two occasions in OL/DL drills, Osemele stonewalled Mario Edwards Jr who was swallowed up by the massive 6-5 330-pound guard. The second rush attempt, Osemele finished Edwards off by tossing him into the deep backfield.
Hudson and Jackson weren’t giving any ground either. Hudson in particular kept Justin Ellis at bay both times they faced off. Jackson was tasked with holding off Jihad Ward.
Offensive line coach Mike Tice played a major role in assembling this interior line. He was on staff when the team added Rodney Hudson last year and Osemele this year. He said today that it may just be the best interior trio he has ever coached.
That’s saying a lot for a man who has been coaching offensive lines at the NFL level for 20 years.
Part of getting this trio assembled was moving Gabe Jackson over from left to right guard with Osemele inserted into the starting lineup. Jackson has been a fantastic left guard for the Raiders over the past two seasons since the team selected him in the third round – a round after Derek Carr.
"We just talked to Gabe about what’s good for us and also for him," said Jack Del Rio. "He’s such a big powerful man, a great kid. I think he’s handled it beautifully. He’s like ‘whatever I can do for the team and whatever makes us better and said and indicated, that’s great. That’s great news for us. Obviously you’re taking a guy out of his comfort zone, but at the same time we feel like it’s a natural spot for him. He’s a big powerful man and that right spot is really a natural spot for a lot of the movement things that we want to do. He helps us take it to another level."
Hudson was probably the team’s first bigtime free agent signing of the new regime. Coming over from Kansas City as a major part of the team’s rebuilding efforts.
"He’s very intelligent," Osemele said of Hudson. "And on top of that, he can actually play. He has athletic ability."
There is, of course, the run game to consider when talking about the interior line. That’s where team’s bread is buttered, because that’s how the offense can go about wearing down the defense, running clock, and maintaining leads. Latavius Murray has said on several occasions how excited he is to get a chance to run behind these guys.
I honestly can’t remember the last time the Raiders could say one particular position group were as potentially dominating as their interior offensive line is right now.