Rebuilding Raiders Hoping Trenches Key to Turnaround

The Oakland Raiders are just starting the reconstruction phase of their rebuild. After two grueling years of roster deconstruction, general manager Reggie McKenzie finally had the resources to make significant improvements in 2014.

That’s why losing two key young trench players in free agency was a peculiar start. One of the most common rebuild philosophies is the approach that starts with addressing the lines on both sides of the ball, so losing defensive end Lamarr Houston and left tackle Jared Veldheer seemed like a huge blow.

Improvements on the offensive and defensive lines in 2014 may hold the key to Oakland’s turnaround. Losing Houston and Veldheer in free agency and Rodger Saffold to a failed physical notwithstanding, McKenzie has done a great job building from the inside out this offseason.

Linemen aren’t very exciting for fans, so McKenzie’s effort has gone somewhat unnoticed by comparison to his work at the quarterback position. Line play is a vital part of the game that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Rarely do you hear about offensive lineman unless they do something wrong. Defensive lineman are only noticed when they get sacks.


Potential Impact

According to Pro Football Focus grades (subscription required), the three best pass-blocking teams made the playoffs in 2013, as well as two of the top-five run-blocking teams. Four of the top-six teams in run defense also made the playoffs. Surprisingly, only one of the top-five teams in pass rush went to the playoffs, but it was the reigning Super Bowl champs.

Being top five in one of the four areas (run defense, pass-blocking, run-blocking, pass rush) resulted in teams making the playoffs about 45 percent of the time in 2013 and 55 percent in 2012. Three teams ranked in the top five in two of these areas in 2013, and two of them made it to the Super Bowl.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Oakland Raiders