The Oakland Raiders added a few new pieces to the offensive line this offseason including signing free agent Mike Brisiel and moving Stefen Wisniewski from guard to center. As they familiarize themselves with each other during organized team activities their biggest adjustment will be learning and executing the new offense.
New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp brings his zone blocking rushing attack to Oakland this season. Knapp boasts an impressive resume when it comes to the effect the zone blocking scheme has on the team’s rushing offense. When he was with the Falcons from 2004-2006, they had the number one rushing rank in the league, averaging just under 170 yards per game. Running back Warrick Dunn rushed for 1,106, 1,416, and 1,140 in his three years with Knapp running the zone blocking scheme. With the Raiders in 2007, Knapp instituted the zone scheme and Justin Fargas ran for his only career thousand yard season, finishing the year with 1,009 yards rushing. In Seattle, Justin Forsett averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 114 rushing attempts. Finally in Houston, Arian Foster led the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards in 2010 under the Knapp zone blocking scheme. In 2011, Foster followed with 1,224 yards.
The constant with every successful rushing attack starts up front with the offensive line. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen believes the offensive line is doing a nice job learning the system.
“I think our offensive line has done a nice job, really adapted to the zone-running scheme that we are going to use,” Allen said. “It’s a lot different than some of the things they were asked to do last year. But I think they have done a nice job of adjusting. I think our offensive line coaches are doing an outstanding job working with those guys. And I think at the end of the day by the time we get through training camp I’ll be real pleased with where we are at, offensive-line wise, and what we are going to be able to do.”
The projected starters on the offensive line as training camp approaches looks like, Brisiel at right guard, Cooper Carlisle moving to the left guard spot, Wisniewski at center, Khalif Barnes at right tackle and Jared Veldheer manning the left tackle spot. However a shoulder injury has kept Stefen Wisniewski from participating in any of the offseason workouts. As he moves from playing guard as a rookie to center in his second year, Wisniewski will have to learn on the fly.
“I think any time, I said this yesterday on a radio show, each practice, everybody needs to work together to get better,” Allen said. “And so, does it set him back? Yes, it sets him back a little, and I wouldn’t expect him back before training camp, but I expect once we get to training camp that he will be ready to go. The good thing is, he has been able to be in all the meetings so from a mental standpoint he’s up to speed on what we are installing, but there’s nothing like getting a rep and going through it.”
With Wisniewski expected back during training camp, he will have time to learn and execute the new scheme. The addition of Brisiel, formerly of the Texans, will help because they ran the same scheme while he was there with Greg Knapp. Depth will be an issue for the offensive line moving forward, but if the group can stay healthy, they have the talent and skill to help the Raiders' offense continue its improvement.
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