Today, Pro Football Focus released its power rankings of each NFL team’s offensive line. The usual suspects are at the top, including the Eagles, Cowboys and Titans. But the Raiders didn’t fall very far from their perch as the league’s premier line unit, even after a subpar 2017. PFF ranked the line #7 overall in the league.
“The Raiders were among the most dominant offensive lines in 2016, but that changed drastically in 2017. All four returning starters graded out worse in 2017 than they did in 2016. There’s no denying the talent is still there though, as only left tackle Donald Penn checks in at over 30 years old this season. A lot will come down to how quickly rookie right tackle and first-round pick Kolton Miller can assimilate. PFF had Miller as our seventh-ranked tackle in the class and a third-round grade.” says the article.
Several other things that stand out in the piece is that the Raiders’ interior line is strong enough to make up for major questions at both tackle spots. Raiders first-round pick, rookie Kolton Miller is penciled in by PFF as the team’s starting right tackle, and if he earns that spot (by beating out the likes of Breno Giacomini) it would give Oakland their best pair of tackles in years, even though Miller is the team’s long-term option at left tackle and Brandon Parker is the heir apparent at right tackle when he is ready to step into that role.
But Penn is there at left tackle now, and right tackle is becoming more and more important as team defenses put an emphasis on rushing from all directions at once. Early reports during OTAs were glowing about Miller, although he has yet to face Khalil Mack on the practice field.
The other offensive lines in the division were not ranked very highly at all by PFF. Kansas City has the next highest-ranked line at 18th, and PFF seems to think center Mitch Morse and left guard Bryan Witzmann are total disasters, although tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are graded out above average.
Denver comes in at 19th, and PFF hates their tackle spots with Garrett Bolles and Jared Veldheer on the right side. Their highest rated lineman is guard Ronald Leary. DE Bradley Chubb will be an excellent player, but if any team should have drafted Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, it’s Denver. Their guard play is beyond abysmal and it will continue to hold them back and stifle the development of any young quarterbacks they may have.
The Chargers clock in at 23rd, and they’ll be supposedly starting a pair of second-year players, Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp at guard. While Feeney played well last season, Lamp missed the entire year with an ACL injury and it remains to be seen whether he will return to the form he had at Western Kentucky. The Chargers’ tackle situation is subpar with 87 year-old Russell Okung at LT and Joe Barksdale at RT.
One thing I’ve learned in my many years of watching football is that if your offensive line sucks, your team sucks, and the other three lines in this division are godawful. The Raiders have done a lot of work this offseason to beef up their pass rush and offensive line as well. Terrible offensive lines like this in the division are only going to make life that much easier for the likes of Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack, Arden Key, Maurice Hurst, PJ Hall and whatever kitchen sink Paul Guenther seeks to employ. Derek Carr should be better protected than he was last season behind one of the beefiest and best lines in the league, and that could mean a lot of success for Oakland this year.