The Oakland Raiders offensive line took a step back in 2012. It may have been the adjustment to former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone blocking scheme. The unit as a whole never got comfortable in the system and as a result the Raiders ranked 28th in rushing yards per game, averaging just 88.8 yards.
One area the line excelled was pass blocking. Despite being placed in terrible circumstances by early deficits, the Raiders offensive line only gave up 27 sacks on 629 pass attempts. That is a remarkable job considering the defense knew the Raiders had to throw.
The interior of the Oakland offensive line has some young talent to build around. Center Stefen Wisniewski started all 16 games at guard as a rookie and started 15 games this season as he moved to center. The former second round pick earned the trust of the players and coaching staff as the leads the line in identifying defenses and makes the line calls. Wisniewski should anchor the line for years to come. His back-up Alex Parsons started the only game Wisniewski missed. He is an exclusive right free agent, which means the Raiders can have him back for three years at the veteran's minimum. He does not have the ability to negotiate with other teams, pretty much ensuring he will be back in 2013.
The Raiders paid big money to Mike Brisiel last offseason to entice him away from the Houston Texans. However, he was hampered late in the season by an ankle injury that really hurt his production. He is being compensated like an elite guard and is under contract for the next four seasons. The Raiders will expect a bigger payoff on their investment in 2013 and Brisiel has the ability to oblige.
The other starting guard spot was occupied by 13 year veteran Cooper Carlisle, who started all 16 games for the Raiders. Oakland signed Carlisle to a one year deal last season making him an unrestricted free agent this offseason. It would not appear likely the Raiders would resign Carlisle unless they can get him for a cheap one year deal. Instead general manager Reggie McKenzie used the team's first draft choice on Tony Bergstrom in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Bergstrom started one game in 2012 in place of Brisiel, but the coaching staff found ways to get in on the field in short yardage situations and as an extra offensive lineman. He will enter 2013 with a chance to win the starting job.
One favorable addition to the Oakland offensive line will come from the hiring of Tony Sparano as the offensive line coach and assistant head coach. Sparano has experience and a proven record of success guiding offensive lines. With a young, talented group, Sparano has the opportunity to make an impact developing this unit.
Tags: Alex Parsons, Cooper Carlisle, Football, Mike Brisiel, NFL, NFL Draft, Oakland, Oakland Raiders, Stefen Wisniewski, Tony Bergstrom, Tony Sparano