Everyone knew the Oakland Raiders would have difficulty finding a replacement for left tackle Jared Veldheer. Veldheer tore his triceps and will be out for a significant amount of time. In the second preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, the Raiders' offensive line was exposed.
Starting quarterback Matt Flynn played the first half and was sacked five times. The offensive line had several difficulties, but none more glaring then their lack of communication and protection adjustments. There were many times when the Saints brought extra players on the blitz and the Raiders let them have untouched shots at Flynn. Whether it was safeties or linebackers, the Raiders were unable to make protection calls and the Saints ran free for sacks.
“Obviously they brought a lot of pressure, and we’ve got to do a better job in the passing game of being able to execute when we do have pressure,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “I think obviously the offensive line plays a part in that, and I think that everybody always looks at the offensive line when things break down and the quarterback is under duress, but there’s a lot of things that go into that, and we’ve got to be better overall as a group at being able to handle pressure and being able to protect the quarterback, being able to get the ball out of our hands and execute the passing game under pressure.”
Alex Barron received the first show to replace Veldheer at left tackle and did nothing to make the team comfortable that he is a solution. He was beaten on several sacks and made a few bad penalties. Andre Gurode started in place of injured Mike Brisiel and struggled at times to fill the right gaps. Right tackle Khalif Barnes had struggles with speed rushers blowing by him on the outside. It was a hard lesson learned by the offensive line at Flynn's expense.
The offensive line struggles killed any offensive momentum the Raiders tried to muster. On their first drive, they traveled 37 yards on seven plays. The next four offensive drives resulted in three and outs where the Raiders lost a total of seven yards. Just to reiterate, that's four series for a total of seven yards lost. The offense finally pulled it together on the last drive of the half. Flynn settled in and completed six passes in a row capped off by a strike to Denarius Moore down the sideline for an 18 yards touchdown.
The Raiders had some tough breaks with injuries on the offensive line especially to Jared Veldheer. He is their best linemen at the most important position along the line. However, the injury excuse will not hold up when the regular season begins. The Raiders will have to execute a plan to get the best five guys on the field to protect Flynn and open up holes. If they cannot do that, it will be another long season.
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