Why Austin Howard Is Oakland Raiders’ Best Bet at Right Guard

The Oakland Raiders should move Austin Howard back to guard in order to strengthen the right side of their offensive line and allow another young prospect to develop.

It all started a couple of weeks after the Super Bowl. New head coach Jack Del Rio made one of his first major decisions, moving Howard back to his natural position at tackle, per San Francisco Chronicle writer Vic Tafur:


Playing to Howard’s Strengths

Former interim head coach Tony Sparano made a strategic move transitioning Howard inside as an interior lineman in 2014. He worked with the former undrafted talent in New York as an offensive coordinator for the Jets in 2012.

Ultimately, he decided Howard fit the mold of a guard rather than a tackle.

Sparano noticed something in Howard’s play that was evident in 2014. He’s a far better run-blocker than pass-blocker on the line.

Generally, coaches want better pass-blockers on the outside to ward off edge-rushers and more stout run-blockers on the interior to impede larger defensive tackles while clearing lanes for ball-carriers.

Howard (6’7", 330 lbs) has the size to play inside, but he’s also better equipped to handle bigger defensive linemen. The proof is in the pudding—or in this case, Pro Football Focus’ grading system:

In his first full season starting with the Jets, the disparity between his run-blocking and pass-blocking grades shouldn’t be ignored.

In 2012, Howard had the daunting task of protecting quarterback Mark Sanchez, but he also provided excellent run blocking for Shonn Greene. Greene rushed for a career-high 1,063 yards that season and hasn’t been heard from since his departure. He has totaled a mere 687 rushing yards since joining the Tennessee Titans in 2013.

Howard’s grades were closer to even...

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