In 2015 when the Raiders hired Jack Del Rio to become the 20th head coach in the franchises history, one of his first moves was to hire Mike Tice to coach the offensive line. Tice was the Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach at the time and they initially blocked the hiring. To allow Tice to leave the team for the same position with another organization shows the level of respect Atlanta has for him.
While Tice’s hiring didn’t get a lot of notice at the time, there may not have been a more important position coach hiring. Under Mike Tice’s tutelage, the Raiders have built one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson make of the Pro Bowl part of the line with right guard Gabe Jackson who was a Pro Bowl alternate. It is only the right tackle spot that the Raiders are looking to upgrade. Austin Howard has manned that spot much of the past few seasons. Though great players make it easier, it is getting these five guys to function as a unit that requires time and coaching.
There are several great examples of this. One such instance came last season in a game against the Denver Broncos. This was the Raiders most most dominant run game performance of the season.
On one play Penn must execute a ‘reach’ block from his left tackle position on #93 who is in a 3 technique. This is a difficult block simply based off of the starting leverage and position. Recognizing this, Osemele blocks #93’s inside shoulder allowing Penn to establish his block. Osemele then attacks #52 who was his blocking assignment. Their teamwork here created a cutback lane Washington used for a six yard gain.
In the passing game an offensive line must be able to recognize defensive pressures and respond accordingly. It usually falls on the center and quarterback to make this line calls. The Raiders are in an excellent position of not only having Derek Carr but also Rodney Hudson to make these calls. There may not be a more intelligent center in the NFL, though even players with their recognition skills will be deceived at times. This is when coaching and instincts must kick in.
This is an example of a great play that was only made possible by that coaching and Austin Howard’s quick reaction. It is the overtime win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While this play ended in a game winning touchdown, great timing and disguise almost had it end in a sack.
Tampa Bay lines up giving a 2-man (man coverage under 2 deep safeties) look. This formation would leave the offensive line with four linemen to pass block. Timing the snap, Tampa Bay rotates their safety down into man coverage and blitzes their linebacker.
The disguise worked and created a free rusher on the offenses right side. Howard started the play blocking the left defensive end but recognized the blitz just in time. He got enough of a push on the blitzing linebacker to prevent him from making contact with Carr as he delivered the game winning pass.
Without Howard’s recognition and quick reaction, Seth Roberts doesn’t score this touchdown and it is anybody’s guess how the game ends. While often unheralded, the Raiders offensive line is engine that drives their potent attack. Without it, the Carr doesn’t get out of the driveway.
Who is the most valuable to the O-line?
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Coach Mike Tice