Raiders O-line has it handled up front

ALAMEDA — Raiders head coach Dennis Allen considers any team’s offensive line critical to the squad’s success.

Through the offseason, Allen has seemed more and more pleased. As with any critical group, there needs to be depth.

The Lions used more than the standard preseason four-man rush Friday night to get to quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Derek Carr.  Raiders coaches haven’t faulted the unit, though, and when asked about continuity along the front, Allen said:

“I think that group is beginning to gel together as a unit. … They’ve got to continue to work and continue to get better. It’s been nice to see some of these young guys come along.”

Detroit was able to pressure Schaub, though Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson put that on Schaub and a missed cut block, not the line:

“We had one missed defensive line gain on a third down. But the other two pressures was an empty pressure in which there is a player unaccounted for that Matt Schaub needed to recognize. He didn’t recognize it until it was too late.”

No doubt, the more time Schaub has to throw, the better chance he has of finding an open receiver. But during his last season in Houston, Schaub was passing under duress more often than not.

Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

He’d force balls into tight coverage while other passes bounced off the intended receiver and into the hands of a defender. The latter happened Friday night, when a Schaub pass squirted off the finger tips of receiver James Jones, and into the arms of Lions cornerback James Ihedigbo.

Ihedigbo nearly took it the distance before being tackled down at the Oakland 38-yard-line by Donald Penn.

Despite two straight 4-12 seasons, a few Raiders are more than optimistic.

Linebacker Sio Moore considers this a Super Bowl worthy roster. Second year offensive tackle Menelik Watson, who Oakland drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, is optimistic.

But Watson has a simpler answer when asked about high expectations from players:

“We’ve got to take care of business. The way we’ve been working, if we continue to work like this, and just keep everyone’s minds, one day at a time, anything is possible. That’s the beauty of the NFL.”

Penn and Austin Howard came in during the offseason and performed the best of all Raiders linemen, according to Pro Football Focus. Both linemen played 38 snaps, more than Schaub’s 25.

The team also drafted Gabe Jackson, a road-grating guard out of Mississippi State, with hopes he can develop into a star. Jackson joins Watson, center Stefen Wisniewski and swing tackle Khalif Barnes, along with Penn and Howard, to give the Raiders depth along the line better than the team has seen in years.

Despite the revamping of the line and other key positions, Oakland still has a lot to prove before fans around the league raise their own expectations.

The constant pressure’s Schaub dealt with while Detroit’s first team defense was in added fuel to a fire which has been combustible since general manager Reggie McKenzie came aboard and Allen was hired as head coach.

And while Allen wasn’t vocal about not being 100 percent impressed by the offensive line, he didn’t get down on the group:

“I mean, it wasn’t perfect, and I said this the other day, any time there is any pressure on the quarterback, first thing everybody wants to do is look at the offensive line and say it’s an offensive line issue, and that’s not the case. There are obviously still some things that we’ve got to get cleaned up, and this will be a great test for them this week going against the Packers front.”

Oakland visits Green Bay Friday evening, and the line will have to stop the Packers’ Clay Matthews, an All-Pro pass rusher who has been a staple of opposing teams’ game planning.

The test can be viewed on CBS beginning Friday at 5 p.m. PST.


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