The offensive line jumps in for part six of this 10-part series breaking down the Raiders training camp roster.
The group may only have one combined Pro Bowl appearance — Penn in 2010 — but it’s a solid group that could see that number rise. Let’s take a look at them:
Retaining Penn at left tackle was critical, mostly because Osemele will now play play left guard. Offensive line coach Mike Tice told me of Osemele in March, “When we see him on tape, we see him as an elite guard. I don’t see that same thing at left tackle. We had to be very thankful when we got Donald back.”
Penn is a stabilizing force both on the line and in the locker room. The Raiders gain continuity at an important position where Osemele can also back up.
Osemele’s presence bumps Gabe Jackson from left guard to right guard, where he takes over for the departed J’Marcus Webb. That’s an upgrade. And Jackson, after a season playing in between veterans Penn and Rodney Hudson, should be well-equipped for the move. Tice, for one, doesn’t expect any issues.
The team views Hudson as a Pro Bowl-quality center and really now, from left tackle through right guard, there’s Pro Bowl potential. Even right tackle isn’t a black hole. Austin Howard was serviceable last year and is an experienced veteran, although Menelik Watson likely has a small leg up on the competition for the job. Either way, the Raiders are in good shape if that’s the only weakness.
The key will be to see if this group can help boost a running game that finished just 28th in the league. Jackson gives them a better run blocker at right guard and that Osemele-Hudson-Jackson trio up the middle should move piles.
If Watson does in fact win the right tackle job — he was in line to start last year before rupturing his Achilles — Howard is a good option as a swing backup tackle. He has 62 career starts after all and remember, he played right guard in 2014. That’s helps his versatility as a reserve.
Jon Feliciano is another key. Tony Bergstrom left in free agency, so the Raiders need a new backup center. Feliciano should be that guy and someone who they hope can fill holes at guard as well. He earned himself a look late last season and made three starts after Howard was injured.
Matt McCants started a couple of games back in 2013 and has played in 26 career games. He’s mostly a backup tackle, but can also play a little guard and is a good contender to be active on game days.
The Raiders drafted LSU’s Vadal Alexander in the seventh round, but the guard/tackle opens camp on the non-football injury list. The length of his absence could impact his ability to make the 53-man roster.
Mitch Bell was signed last year as an undrafted free agent last year and spent the season on the practice squad, which could give him a leg up on the rest of the group. Every other lineman on the roster is a rookie undrafted free agent.
That group includes: center Ross Burbank from Virginia; guard Denver Kirkland of Arkansas; guard Oni Omoile of Iowa State; guard/center Terran Vaughn of Stephen F. Austin and tackle Torian White of Hampton.