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O-line’s scheme, makeup depends on Cable

Fourth in a series evaluating the Raiders position by position as it begins it begins to prepare for the 2009 season.

Position group review: Offensive line

Starters: LT Mario Henderson, LG Robert Gallery, C Jake Grove, RG Cooper Carlisle, RT Cornell Green. Reserves: T Kwame Harris, C-G Chris Morris, C John Wade, T Paul McQuistan, T Mark Wilson, T James Marten. Unrestricted free agents: Grove, Carlisle.

The direction of this unit will become more clear once it is learned whether Tom Cable returns as either head coach, offensive coordinator or offensive line coach.

He won’t have the triplicate role of being in charge, calling the plays and handling his beloved grunts, but if Cable is still around, the Raiders will remain a zone blocking team, with an emphasis on beating opponents to the punch rather than overpowering them.

Cable believes in the scheme very deeply, and it was at its glorious best in the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay, when Michael Bush rushed for 129 yards and the Raiders left Bucs linemen strewn all over their own field.

If Cable doesn’t get the head coaching gig and takes another job, the Raiders could return to a man-blocking scheme or some kind of hybrid, as Denver has done in recent years.

As was the case in 2008, the Raiders’ best lineman was a guard, only this time it was Gallery, who had only three penalties all year and who would be getting some run as an upper tier player at his position if Oakland had a winning record.

Gallery has already reworked his contract once, usually an indication a player isn’t going anywhere, and with cap number approaching $9 million, could be asked again.

The rest of the line wasn’t nearly as consistent. Carlisle, the most steady player in 2008, found himself manhandled on occasion against the more physical tackles and is an unrestricted free agent.

Grove’s contract automatically voided on playing time incentives. The Raiders’ Ed Block Courage Award winner for his recovery from micro-fracture surgery, Grove is a staunch Cable supporter and his plans could hinge on whether the coach returns in some capacity.

Originally signed to be a veteran backup, Green has been a two-year starter on the right side and carries a $1.8 million salary into next season. Ideally, he’ll be a backup and a mentor to Henderson and other young linemen.

During the draft or free agency, the Raiders need a frontline tackle _ maybe two. The scheme they select will determine whether they seek a bruiser or someone more lean and athletic.

One of the bright spots over the past three games was Henderson. A public whipping post for former coach Lane Kiffin, and ridden hard by Cable in private, Henderson’s passion and desire were openly questioned.

He subbed for Harris against Buffalo and Kansas City, with Harris getting his job back when healthy. He subbed for him again because of injury later in the year, with Cable going back to Harris end emphatically stating he was the Raiders’ left tackle.

Finally, as Harris continued to struggle, Henderson got the job over the final three games, didn’t make a single penalty, and proved worthy of at least entering camp as a favorite to start.

Harris, on the other hand, is due $2 million in salary plus a $6 million roster bonus after earning $605,000 with a $1.5 bonus in 2008. Harris will never see the second year, certainly not with those numbers.

Cable’s loyalty _ he was convinced Harris would be a standout left tackle _ got the better of him in this case. He lobbied for Harris, who struggled in pass protection for the 49ers, and it stands out as his worst mistake in judgment since joining the Raiders.

The Raiders have right of first refusal on Morris, a smallish, mobile guard/center who won’t be around if the blocking scheme changes radically.

The Raiders still have Wade under contract for another year at $1.5 million should they lose Grove.

Marten, a Cowboys practice pick, was signed off their practice squad but was never active for a game as he adjusted to the system. Although Cable said he liked Marten’s progress, they never considered activating him even though Harris was struggling, Henderson wasn’t a favorite of the coaches and Green’s health was a week-to-week proposition.

McQuistan, who spent the season on injured reserve following knee surgery, adapted slowly to zone blocking and was ticketed for a reserve role before being injured. Wilson, also on I.R., will be fighting for a roster spot.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Dakota

    Do we have a coach yet?

    Is the combine here yet?

    Waiting sucks.

  • The Dude

    Henderson was a late bloomer in college aswell didnt start at LT till his last season he just takes times but looks like he might have arrived. I have reservations aswell we should still go LT in the first round and move him to RT if he can play there.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Quick who are the LT’s for Philly, Giants and Ravens?

    ***

    Eagles starting tackles -
    Jon Runyan & Tra Thomas

    Giants starting tackles -
    Kareem McKenzie & David Diehl

    Ravens starting tackles -
    Jared Gaither & Willie Anderson

    those are all quality starter NFL tackles. that was a bad point or example he was trying to make

  • SacRaider

    RaiderRod Says:
    January 7th, 2009 at 12:59 pm
    SacRaider , he is small though like 6′ 2″ 210 .
    —————————————————-

    6’2″ 210 isn’t that small for a guy who runs 4.2.. Moss was just an anomoly..

  • DarthPirate

    There’s an interesting piece on Oher and how he might have problems against speed rushers on ESPN’s website.

  • SacRaider

    If OT is such an easy position to fill, and pass up on in the draft, then there wouldn’t have been 7 taken in the first round last year. More than any other position. A good pair of tackles make your offense run. If your QB gets time, he can find the open guy. If your line creates big holes, any RB can run thru them. It all starts up front.

  • DarthPirate

    Sorry, Andre Smith, not Oher.

  • http://www.dontbotherresponding.com Bo Schembechler Jackson

    I think the only red flags for Henderson were due to him being very raw. He only started one season at FSU and then gets tossed into a ZBS as a rook. Hopefully the coaches knew he was a work in progress and his late season play shows he is developing as hoped.

    What I would like to know is which Raiders scout recommended him to Al. It would be VERY interesting to match up our scouts and the unsung players they were responsible for us drafting.

  • vegas raider

    “You can’t tell me there will be a better RT who can start right away like Oher and Monroe could that we can get in Round 2 that can play in the ZBS scheme and in a power scheme?”

    **************

    Darkknight,

    Oher and Monroe both play LT, and a switch to RT would take a little time. Why is unconceivable to think a true RT taken in the 2nd or 3rd won’t be a stud, and also cost about a tenth the price.

    Fact is guys, our O-line last year played better as a group than our:

    D-line, WR’s, safeties, and maybe even LB’s. Center and depth need to be addressed, but one guy with a $30 million dollar price tag isn’t going to do it.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/skew-t/166654980/ BART Bridge Brigade

    Henderson’s big knock is his intensity. Coaches love high-motor, big intensity guys; and Kiffin/Cable are no exceptions, I think their public thrashings of Henderson were attempts to motivate him. But despite whatever heart he may lack, the kid can play, and always steps up his game to match the level of his opponent. I dont think the coaches will ever like Henderson, and it may take a full-year starting before they even trust him.

  • vegas raider

    #302:

    Willie Anderson, while a former Pro-Bowler, was picked up off the scrap heap and any team could have picked him up. None of those other guys are consistent Pro-Bowlers. Of course you need quality NFL starters there, you need them AT EVERY POSITION if you are going to be one of the best teams. I think Mario can be a quality NFL starter, he certainly played like one when he got the chance.

  • DarthPirate

    The only thing I don’t like about football.
    ==================
    Dakota Says:
    January 7th, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Do we have a coach yet?

    Is the combine here yet?

    Waiting sucks.

  • http://view.playlist.com/12942502411/standalone La Milicia Negra

    # RaiderRockstar Says:
    January 7th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Henderson plays LEFT side already.

    ***

    I know. Maybe you should tell Jedi that.
    __________________________________________________

    RRS,

    well if you addressed those comments you are commenting on..

    if one just reads your post, and haven’t read the ENTIRE post you are referring to with your LONE sentence, then its an honest mistake to make..

    thats why I dont refer to post # or just out of the blue.. I dont say you should do what I do,Im just saying you would clear a lot of mus-ups by doing it a different way than you do now..

  • http://www.dontbotherresponding.com Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Dakota,

    See 275. Would you roll with the coke bottles at the Sturgis rally? “All right! Lemme hear ya! Ah-One! Ah-Two! Ah-Three…”

  • http://view.playlist.com/12942502411/standalone La Milicia Negra

    —”The Seahawks’ next offensive coordinator will be Greg Knapp, according to NFL.com’s Adam Schefter. Knapp is coming from Oakland, where he began the season as playcaller. He will keep Seattle’s West Coast offense intact, so Matt Hasselbeck won’t have to learn new terminology. Knapp has also used zone blocking in both Atlanta and Oakland. While upgrades are possible, Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett are expected to form a “1-2″ punch in Seattle for now. The scheme has been mostly successful no matter the location, so Jones could benefit.”—

  • Dakota

    new post, but LMN already broke the story!

  • vegas raider

    #305:

    Of the 7 first-round picks last year, one never played (Chris Williams), 1 flopped (Cherilus), and the best one was taken 19th (Otah). Zero were taken in the 2nd round, I think it was a big over-exaggeration by teams because of the success the Browns had the year before with Joe Thomas.

    Hey if they take a tackle, and he pans out it will definately help the team and I’m all for it. But when we have the worst 3rd LB in the league, a sieve like Defensive Line, and than a young potentially promising LT already on the roster, makes sense to me to maybe look elsewhere with the 7th pick, and focus on depth issues for the O-line later. In a perfect world, AL would trade down and than we would have more options, but that’s not happening.

  • RaiderRod

    Hello again….

    I feel like we can be like the Lions , no where to go but up.
    No way we can get any worse right?

  • darkknight01

    Darkknight,

    Oher and Monroe both play LT, and a switch to RT would take a little time. Why is unconceivable to think a true RT taken in the 2nd or 3rd won’t be a stud, and also cost about a tenth the price.

    Fact is guys, our O-line last year played better as a group than our:

    D-line, WR’s, safeties, and maybe even LB’s. Center and depth need to be addressed, but one guy with a $30 million dollar price tag isn’t going to do it.

    ^ So you would rather pay big money with the #7 pick on a safety or reach for a DT who is not graded within the top ten and pay them big money? Not me. I can see maybe Everett Brown who is a pass rushing DE or Brandon Spikes or Rey ahead of DT, or a safety.

    I have heard that both Oher and Monroe can play RT in the NFL and it won’t that much of an adjustment just as long as they OTA’s and the enitire training camp to get reps. I believe Oher started out as an RT at Ole Miss.

  • JediRaider

    LMN / nnamdi 21 – Henderson is too small to play RT – RT’s are usually bigger maulers since they are on the strong side with the TE – My point was that if Henderson can’t cut it, our draft pick can just stay at RT -

  • summer

    Just wondering why you said James Marten came from the Cowboys practice squad? He has never been on a practice squad he was drafted by the Cowboys in the 3rd round 67th overall. Anyway just wanted to clear that up. Hope the Raider’s do awesome next year and hope they keep Cable I think he can really help the team!

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