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The Las Vegas Raiders present an interesting case study to the rest of the league if they end up as a top-five scoring unit next season. The Raiders were just 24th in scoring last season under Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olson and return almost the exact same depth chart on offense from 2019, so why should we expect significant improvement?
Other than a natural regression that I think should push Vegas up in that regard, the real superstar here is the five players blocking for everyone else. The case study: is an elite offensive line “enough” to get it done?
The Raiders “elite” status on that unit probably started with the signing of center Rodney Hudson in 2015, arguably a Hall of Famer should he play long enough. They had added Donald Penn and Gabe Jackson a year earlier, Kelechi Osemele a year later, but I really like focusing on a team’s center as the true anchor point of their collective success. So I am.
Penn and Osemele went to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017, Kolton Miller was drafted in the first round in 2018, replacing Penn, and Trent Brown was signed to a record contract to play on the right side in 2019. This is an offensive line potentially on par with the early 2000s Kansas City Chiefs but they’ve ranked 31st, 17th, 7th, 23rd, 28th, and 24th in scoring since 2014.
What’s going to change this time around?
Mike Mayock is clearly banking on his three rookie skill players, a future Hall of Fame tight end, and if none of that works, a former top-three quarterback looking to rebuild his reputation. In order for the Raiders to become the offense they need to be — like in 2016 when they were seventh in points and went 12-4 under Jack Del Rio — who will be the most important players to have available every week?
Is it Trent Brown even if right tackle isn’t traditionally even a top-two or top-three offensive line priority?
Is it Henry Ruggs even though he’s a rookie?
IS it Darren Waller even though he wasn’t on anyone’s radar a year ago?
I’ll put it to the votes first and we’ll see how things begin to shake out according to Silver and Black Pride readers. And here’s the question: Who is the most important to the 2020 Raiders offense? This doesn’t just take into account the value of the starter in your eyes, but the value relative to his backup. The value relative to his position. The value relative to expectations for that particular player.