It seems that there are two offensive linemen that have shown they deserve a starting position this coming season for the Oakland Raiders. Those guys are left tackle Donald Penn and center Stefan Wisniewski. In fact, last Tuesday in an interview with the Bay Area News Group, head coach Dennis Allen said those were the only two set positions on the line.
Wisniewski is three-year starter out of Penn State, whom some consider the best center to come out of the 2011 draft. He’s started every game for the last three seasons for the Raiders. He has been completely consistent in his overall play while looking comfortable both in the shotgun snap and the conventional snap. This is one position where no competition will take place at all for the spot. As long as Wisniewski continues what he has been doing and stays healthy, he will be a main contributor to a winning offense.
The other offensive line position that head coach Allen agreed was locked up is left tackle where there has been some drama during this offseason. Once free agency opened up the Raiders struck a five-year, $42.5 million contract with Rodger Saffold. Saffold played four seasons with the St. Louis Rams, starting 44 of the 47 games. Once Oakland discovered Saffold had a shoulder injury that would require surgery, they named the contract void and dropped him due to a failed physical.
The Rams picked Saffold back up for more than $10 million less, but say that his shoulder is nothing to be concerned about.
The day after Oakland dropped Saffold, Penn was dropped from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he played two years under Raiders offensive coordinator, Greg Olson. This was an “everything happens for a reason” moment according to Penn during a press conference on June 9th. Penn went on to say how he remained close with Olson even when he left Tampa Bay, which is why he thinks he got the call so quickly after Saffold was released. Penn signed with the Raiders after little thought for a few reasons: his relationship with the Greg Olson, moving back to his hometown of Los Angeles, and he does not want to play right tackle.
The only other team interested in Penn when he was released from Tampa was the Washington Redskins under one condition: he would have to move to the right side of the line. In that same press conference on June 9th, Penn said he felt that left tackles move to right tackle toward the end of their career and he went on to say “I got a lot of left tackle in me and I plan on finishing my career at left tackle.”
These two starting offensive linemen are extremely impressive and although there are some question marks at the other three offensive line positions I think they can be answered in the upcoming mini-camp with the help of these two talented starters.
The big problem I have with the offensive line is how Reggie McKenzie is trying to move the former New York Jet right tackle, Austin Howard in to the right guard and not start 2-time Super Bowl champion right guard for the New York Giants, Kevin Boothe. Why wouldn’t Oakland just keep them where they have proven to be comfortable and effective?
An ideal Oakland Raider offensive line in my opinion is: Donald Penn at left tackle, Khalif Barnes at left guard, Stefan Wisniewski at center, Kevin Boothe at right guard, and Austin Howard at right tackle.