Oakland’s O-Line Not So Offensive
By Bess Shapiro
The Oakland Raiders offensive line needs to improve in just about every aspect. There have been missed blocks galore preventing the establishment of any kind of running game, and quarterback Terrelle Pryor has had to scramble out of the pocket far more often than he should. Could the O-line do a better job protecting the quarterback? Of course it could, but the Raiders have lost their best offensive tackle, Jared Veldheer, and promising rookie Menelik Watson to injuries.
No offense looks good against the ferocious pass rush of the Denver Broncos. It’s worth noting that when Pryor was given decent pass protection last Monday night, he couldn’t find an open receiver. Up until Monday’s matchup, right tackle Tony Pashos had done a good job of keeping the pressure off Pryor. At 6-6 and 325 pounds, Pashos didn’t allow a single pressure on Pryor against the Colts, and the QB was sacked only once.
The O-line has been inconsistent since then with slopping blocking and costly penalties. For all his scrambling ability, Pryor still needs time to throw that ball. He left the field near the end of the Broncos’ game after the pocket collapsed. He took a hit to the head and was diagnosed with a concussion. With the Redskins coming to Oakland on Sunday, the Raiders need to take this opportunity to strengthen the offensive line.
Veldheer is not expected back until Week 11, but Watson could be back for Week 5. This is good news. Watson is a second-round draft pick, and during the preseason he demonstrated some good blocking. At 6-5 and 315 pounds, he should be able to throw his weight forward and push back defenders. Combined with Pashos, the pocket should hold up long enough to allow Pryor to find an open receiver.
Left tackle Khalif Barnes and guard Mike Brisiel dominated the line of scrimmage during several plays against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 to spring running back Darren McFadden. Barnes, Brisiel and even Pro Bowler Andre Gurode were pushed around by the Broncos. The power blocking scheme adopted by offensive coordinator Greg Olson is Barnes’ strong suit. He knows the foot work, and before the failed zone-blocking scheme the Raiders had in place in 2012, Barnes was great in pass protection, putting opponents on the ground. He needs to square his shoulders and push back on defenders. This will create holes for McFadden to run straight up the middle for big gains.
Fullback Marcel Reece and McFadden need to do a better job of blocking up front. Reece is an all-around talented fullback. He needs to throw more chip blocks, which would give his quarterback extra time to throw. McFadden needs to block more on passing plays. They missed key blocks against the Broncos, forcing Pryor from the pocket before plays could develop. Pryor is fortunate that he can scramble. Matt Flynn doesn’t have that ability and he may play Sunday against Washington. The Redskins should be a chip shot, but even an 0-3 team gets lucky eventually. The O-line needs to get its house in order now.