NAPA – No one wants a trench war (see: World War I), but according to the rules of engagement, it’s the only choice.
The Oakland Raiders know well, recalling the nine starting offensive line combinations last year and the 33 rushing touchdowns allowed the past two seasons.
General manager Reggie McKenzie aggressively bolstered his fronts in the offseason, signing free agents Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe, Austin Howard, LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and C.J. Wilson and drafting rookies Gabe Jackson, Justin Ellis and Shelby Harris. In other words, Oakland added more than 3,000 pounds of interior muscle (3,073 pounds to be exact).
But it won’t matter how much room one can consume if he can’t move on a swivel. This was partly why head coach Dennis Allen believed it was a good move to wear pads for a second-straight practice after two days in shorts.
“Specifically early in camp, I think it’s important to really work on your fundamentals and your technique, especially for the big guys up front,” Allen explained Monday. “We’ve got a lot of new guys in those two particular areas and there’s a lot of different coaching, and technique we need to work on.”
One of the afternoon drills involved the offensive line matched up against a single defensive lineman (later two) in their favorable gap. The defender’s job was to rush the assistant coach under center, following live instructions to swim under or fight over the top.
This followed a tip-interception drill which the defensive line stumbled, while the intra-squad scrimmages scattered through the day featured long, tedious snap counts. The occasional step offside or false start resulted in an earful.
Monday’s practice also featured a press-release drill with wide receivers facing cornerbacks. One of Oakland’s biggest wideouts, Juron Criner noticeably struggled getting off the line for a second day in a row, though Allen confirmed the third-year pro is battling a hamstring injury.
The Raiders have Tuesday off and return Wednesday. Thankfully there were no casualties on the fronts.