Raiders' O-line investments pay off with three headed to the Pro Bowl

Raiders' O-line investments pay off with three headed to the Pro Bowl

ALAMEDA – The Raiders invested heavily in their offensive line. They paid four free agents the big bucks and selected Gabe Jackson in the third round three drafts back.

The front is immensely talented. There’s no doubt about that. They’ve worked hard to play well as one, which is why their widely recognized among the NFL’s elite offensive lines.

They’re clearly the AFC’s best, which was reflected in Pro Bowl elections announced by the league on Tuesday evening.

They have three guys set to start in the Pro Bowl, rolling straight from left to right. Left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson were all elected to the starting lineup.

That’s pretty impressive considering the AFC’s blocking talent, but those Raiders have been the best of the best. The Raiders added Osemele and moved Gabe Jackson (an alternate, by the way) to right guard, forming a formidable unit.

“To get an offensive line playing well together takes a ton of work,” Osemele said. “You have to be lucky to a point where the guys gel off the field as well. That chemistry just makes it easier. …We just have a good group. We make it fun, and we like to compete.”

Hudson is at the literal and figurative center of everything, a cerebral asset that has helped this line play well quickly. His first Pro Bowl nod is well deserved.

“It’s like having two quarterbacks out there,” Osemele said. “By the time we come in for our meeting on Wednesday, these guys have already met like a few times and the coaches are sitting there asking these guys how they want to handle things. So, from a standpoint of awareness of like what’s going on with the defense and stuff like that, he’s got to be probably one of the sharpest centers I’ve ever been around and on top of that an athletic one at that, that can get out there and play and make blocks too, not just a guy that’s a smart guy. He can play the game, too.”

If Hudson is the brain trust, Osemele has been the emotional tone setter. He adds a nastiness to proceedings that has added an element to line play.

“He plays hard and aggressive, no matter what part of the game it is,” Hudson said. “He has brought a lot to our meeting room. Everybody feeds off of him. We’re always looking for knockdowns, and he gets a crazy amount.”

The Raiders held a press conference with Hudson and Osemele, the only first-time Pro Bowlers among the team’s seven selections. That list also includes quarterback Derek Carr, edge rusher Khalil Mack, Penn, safety Reggie Nelson and receiver Amari Cooper.

It’s a big deal for the first timers, especially those playing well without much recognition.

“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Osemele said. “…I’ve been chasing this for a while now. It’s a bucket list thing for me. I’m definitely excited about it.”

Report: Raiders bring Reggie Nelson back


Report: Raiders bring Reggie Nelson back

Reggie Nelson has been on a reunion tour since signing with the Raiders. He first worked under Jack Del Rio, his head coach in Jacksonville and someone who choose to make him 2007’s No. 21 overall draft pick.

That link held for two years. Then Del Rio got run out in favor of Jon Gruden and Nelson hit the free-agent market. The 34-year old – he’ll be 35 in September – wasn’t expected back after a down year in 2017.

Another blast from the past created a road back to Oakland, where he reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Raiders. NFL Network reported news of Nelson’s pact.

Nelson thrived, with 23 interceptions and 62 passes defensed during six seasons in Cincinnati. New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was linebackers coach and then Bengals DC (for two years) during Nelson’s time in the Queen City.

Nelson had five picks in 2016, his first year with Oakland, but seemed to slow down some last season. He had 60 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2017.

Nelson will help teach a system familiar to him but foreign to most Raiders, but will certainly angle for steady snaps despite increased competition at his spot. 

He’ll compete for snaps at safety despite last week’s signing of Marcus Gilchrist, expected to take his spot, though it might be an uphilll climb. Gilchrist and Joseph should still be expected to start next season. The Raiders also have Obi Melifonwu at that position, though the second-year pro must earn a role in this defense. The other three have starter’s experience and will compete for that opportunity. Gilchrist also has experience covering the slot, which could help the secondary if a career cornerback isn't found to fill that role. 

Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order


Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Oakland Raiders player Aldon Smith surrendered to police Friday on charges he violated a domestic violence restraining order.

San Francisco police said the 28-year-old Smith turned himself and was booked on three misdemeanor charges of violating a court order to stay away from a domestic violence victim.

Earlier this month, Smith pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and other charges and a judge issued a protective order prohibiting him from contacting the victim.

Police said Smith violated the restraining order earlier this week.

Smith’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not return a voicemail message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The Raiders released the linebacker days after his arrest on the domestic violence charges.

He had been on the suspended list since late 2015 for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.