The O-line is widely regarded as one of the biggest strengths of the Oakland Raiders these days. They gave up only eight of the 18 total sacks the Raiders gave up in 2016 according to Pro Football Focus. They also consistently opened up holes to make way for the No. 6 rushing attack in the NFL.
But within that outstanding team strength, there was a weakness and it was at right tackle. From left OT Donald Penn to right OG Gabe Jackson, the starting O-line gave up just one sack in 2016. Meanwhile, the Raiders had to have four different players at right OT for extended playing time.
And they combined to surrender seven sacks and have 15 penalties called on them last year. Austin Howard played well there in 2015 but struggled to come back from an ACL tear in 2016. He’s coming off surgery to his shoulder this offseason and comes with a $7 million salary cap hit.
The Raiders just re-signed QB Derek Carr and Jackson to big contracts and have more coming up. So it looks like they’re trying to move on from him soon instead of making plans around him. They already allowed Menelik Watson, whom they were in love with, to walk for big money this offseason.
So the Raiders brought Marshall Newhouse in and drafted a talented David Sharpe this offseason. That will give the Raiders the players to throw at right OT position to try to solve the problem. The Raiders obviously haven’t put a depth chart out yet as camp will begin at the end of this month.
So do the Raiders have a guy on the roster that can sufficiently man the position.
If so, who?
When I say sufficiently man the position, I mean play well enough to fit in with the studs around him. It makes no sense for the Raiders to have an average right OT with this elite O-line in 2017. We saw what happened to the Raiders last year when Carr got injured and don’t need to see it again.
Newhouse is more like the former Raiders OL Khalif Barnes, who was never the guy the Raiders wanted. He was the guy the Raiders wanted until they got the guy they wanted and good depth. He could go in there whenever you needed and not be great but you knew he would be a disaster.
Vadal Alexander also figures to be a factor in this competition, seeing action as a rookie 7th-round pick. Alexander wasn’t a disaster in the spots that he played and could make a jump to Year 2. The question about him is if he’s athletic enough as guys like Von Miller feast on opposing right OTs.
Then there’s Sharpe, the 4th-round pick that has the size, strength and athleticism for the position. He was a left OT at Florida in 2016 and played quite well against the SEC’s best edge rushers. He’s also a road-grader so nothing would be lost in the run game if he can handle protecting Carr.
If I were a betting man, I would have to roll with Sharpe.
He was underrated coming out of Florida and would fit well on the right side if he can adjust quickly. He’s one of those guys that I can see becoming an elite right tackle to go with that elite O-line. And I’m sure that’s what the Raiders are hoping for so they can hurry up and get rid of Howard’s contract.
Just win, baby!