Oakland Raiders: How much better will the offensive line be in 2019?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 25: Trent Brown #77 of the New England Patriots in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 25, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 25: Trent Brown #77 of the New England Patriots in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 25, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders offensive line wasn’t very good last season, but now that necessary offseason adjustments have been made, how much better will the unit be in 2019?

The Oakland Raiders offensive line was bad last season. This isn’t some newfound conclusion or a groundbreaking epiphany either. If you tuned into any Raiders game last season, chances are that you would have seen some pretty terrible offensive line play.

Not that that was to be expected, but it certainly isn’t surprising in hindsight.

The Raiders were starting a pair of rookie tackles — one of whom dealt with a nagging knee injury throughout the season. And both of whom weren’t seen as plug-and-play can’t-miss prospects.

Left tackle Kolton Miller was drafted in the first round, but even he was seen as more of a potential-based selection with plenty of room to grow into his athletic frame.

And right tackle Brandon Parker was a small-school, developmental project who was thrust into a starting role far too early, as evidenced by his lackluster play.

Combine that with an injured Kelechi Osemele at left guard playing like a shell of his former self and it’s safe to say that the Raiders offensive line had seen better days. Much better days.

For a while, the Raiders had one of the best offensive line units in the league. With the likes of Donald Penn, Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson manning the offensive front, Oakland didn’t have to worry too much about their offensive line play,

But only the latter two are left and while they’re still playing at a relatively high level, they aren’t getting any younger. That’s what made the need for improvement along the offensive line all the more important this offseason.

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And the Raiders evidently acknowledged the need.

The biggest change came when the team handed New England Patriots tackle Trent Brown a four-year, $66 million contract making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. An overpay? Yes, but one that showed that the Raiders were serious about beefing up their offensive line.

While many expected Brown to assume the starting left tackle role with Miller moving to the right side, the Raiders instead announced that Brown would be the one moving back to right tackle — a position he played during his time with the San Francisco 49ers.

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Given the abundance of superstar edge rushers lining up on the left side of the defense nowadays, there’s honestly very little difference between lining up on the blindside or vice versa.

At center, Hudson will once again return and the same goes for Jackson at right guard. But the left guard position still remains a bit of a question mark.

Osemele was traded away to the New York Jets in the offseason leaving a temporary hole at the position, one that the Raiders did little to address early on in the offseason. Even until late-May, it was presumed that veteran backup Denzelle Good would be given the first crack at the starting job.

But on May 28th, the Raiders signed the troubled, but talented Richie Incognito to hopefully fill their massive hole at left guard. Incognito has run into his fair share of issues off the field and hasn’t played a down of football since 2017 so expectations should undoubtedly be curbed.

But on paper, this does seem like an improvement if Incognito could play at even two-thirds of the level he once did. However, the Raiders will have to wait on his debut as he will be suspended for the first two games of the season stemming from two separate off-field incidents.

In his place, Good was expected to compete for the starting job. But the former Indianapolis Colts lineman recently underwent back surgery and will be out for close to two months. That will open the door for veteran Jonathan Cooper to earn the starting job.

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Cooper was signed just a couple of weeks ago but he has plenty of starting experience to his name, although health has been an issue.

The Raiders offensive line success in 2019 will hinge on three things. First, the team must see a lot more than what the saw from Miller in his rookie season. The UCLA product must live up to his draft status and show improvement.

Second, Incognito must be able to perform close to his former Pro Bowl-caliber level and serve as a serviceable replacement, at worst, for Osemele. And finally, as is with every team, the unit must ultimately stay healthy.

The Raiders offensive line should be improved in 2019, but how improved? Well, that will all depend on those three aforementioned variables.

If all three go in the team’s favor, we could see this as a top-10 unit in the league. If none go as planned, we might not see any improvement at all — or at least marginal improvement.

Realistically, Oakland Raiders fans could hope that these offseason changes propel this offensive line to a league-average unit which should go a long way towards giving quarterback Derek Carr more time and protection than he received last season.

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The offensive line looks improved at first glance, but we’ll have to wait until the season to witness how they truly perform.