It’s homecoming time for left guard Kelechi Osemele.
Prior to joining the Raiders as a free agent this past offseason, Osemele played four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, the Raiders opponent this upcoming Sunday.
Coming back to the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2012 draft is bittersweet for Osemele, but he said he’s eager to get out onto the football field:
“It’s definitely going to be an emotional day. Your (old) teammates are going to be competing against you for the first time ever, so it’ll be different twist. It’s definitely going to be a passionate day for me, a lot of mix feelings going on.”
Osemele has been a mauler since joining the Raiders, pancaking opposing defensive lineman and linebackers on a consistent basis. He attributes his physical style of play largely to the type of culture surrounding the Ravens, which is playing smash-mouth football.
“They are a physical team. That’s a lot of where my playing demeanor came from, coming from that ‘building a bully’ mentality. There are some bullies out there so same physical play, the AFC North smash-mouth type of football so that’s what we’re going to get. It’s going to be a physical game.”
The Raiders offensive line has been no stranger to physical play early in the season. The running backs consistently get gaping running lanes to explode through due to the offensive line’s aggressiveness, which is why the Silver and Black have the second best ranked running attack in the NFL.
Osemele’s best asset is not only his great run blocking ability, but also his versatility. Last season for the Ravens, he played games at left tackle and left guard.
Week one against the New Orleans Saints, the Raiders found themselves in a precarious situation when tackles Menelik Watson and Matt McCants both went down with injuries.
Tackle Austin Howard was already out prior to the game with an ankle injury, so the Raiders were forced to move around the offensive line by sliding Osemele to left tackle, moving Donald Penn to right tackle and having Jon Feliciano come in at left guard.
The Raiders offense performed seamlessly for the remainder of the game, a testament to the versatility and depth of the offensive line.
Quarterback Derek Carr said of the offensive line:
“Two things man, number one: they work very hard. They are very talented. They give a lot of effort, it means a lot to them. Number two: they have great coaching.”
The Raiders have invested heavily in the offensive line, and it has certainly paid off early in the season.
One of the main reasons Osemele came to Oakland as a free agent was because he liked how they invested in improving the offensive line. The offer he received from Baltimore was almost insulting:
“The offer just didn’t come anywhere close. It hurts your feelings a little bit. You’ve spent the past four years there, ups and downs, winning a Super Bowl. Finding out that’s not where you are going to end up can be a little frustrating.”
Although it will be an emotional return for Osemele, head coach Jack Del Rio isn’t worried about the big man keeping his cool during game time.
When asked about Osemele keeping his emotions in check, Del Rio said:
“That’s true with anybody at anytime when you recognize there might be some extra emotion because you are going to friends and family and guys you played with. The reality is that you got to be under control and play good solid football.”
Solid football is what Osemele has been playing so far this season, and he said he’s looking forward to the chance to unleash some more forceful blocks:
“Anytime you can get out there on a linebacker, or somebody that’s 50 pounds or 100 pounds (lighter), doesn’t quite weigh as much, it’s exciting. It’s like picking on your little brother, you want to get out there and do some damage.”