Raiders line enabling entire offense: 'We want to impose our will'


Raiders line enabling entire offense: 'We want to impose our will'

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders threw for 513 yards against Tampa Bay, and then ran for 218 the following week against Denver. That’s a nightmare for opposing defenses, not knowing how the Raiders will attack.

They have a quarterback and skill players to move through the air or on the ground, but there’s one constant between these differing styles.

A big, mean offensive line. That’s what makes this offense go.

“I tell those guys all the time, ‘if you win, we win,’” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I tell them before the game: if you win, we win. They love that. They want (that responsibility). They play with great effort, and I think it fuels our team.”

The Raiders invested heavily in this offensive front, with big-money contracts given to Rodney Hudson, Kelechi Osemele and Austin Howard. Donald Penn got a raise on his second contract with the team. Third-round draft pick Gabe Jackson will pocket significant cash when his rookie deal expires after next season.

The line as currently constructed averages 6-foot-4, 322 pounds, and has an edge to it. These guys play mean, but prefer calling it “controlled anger.”

“It starts with a mentality,” Howard said. “We are aggressive and always will be. We want to impose our will. We want to run and protect our quarterback. There’s talent up front, but we should take hats off for (offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave and (offensive line coach) Mike Tice for getting us prepared and putting us in the best position to succeed. We’ve all bought into this system and play well for each other.”

Despite importing Osemele this offseason, switching Gabe Jackson from left guard to right and needing to play five people at right tackle due to an injury plague, this line has held strong.

Carr has been sacked a league-low 11 times in nine games and running backs rank second with 4.8 yards per carry.

The line’s work has been recognized nationally. Many consider them among the league’s best offensive lines, maybe the second-best behind Dallas.

Before the season started, fans dubbed this line “Carr insurance.” They aren’t just a policy. They’re a vital part of this vehicle.

“There’s no car without the engine,” Penn said with a wry smile. “We tell him we’re the engine, just like the D-line is for our defense. That’s how we try to lead, with our front line.”

This line has been a constant all season, with a particularly dominant showing against Denver where the Raiders ran at will using a small play cluster the Broncos knew was coming.

Most members of this line have played elsewhere, and it would be hard to call any front better that this one. Howard still didn’t want to call it No. 1. He believes this unit can improve upon itself down the home stretch.

“I don’t want to take it too far and say this line is the best,” Howard said. “We don’t need proclamations like that. All we’re focused on doing the little things right and doing the little things better. We’re going to continue to do what we do each week. We want to constantly improve, which is why I won’t say we’re at our best. There’s more out there for us. Our best is yet to come.”

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.